Bill Huizenga: ‘Some things are bridgeable’

Alexander Sinn • Nov 13, 2018 at 12:00 PM

In some ways, the November election was old hat to Zeeland’s Bill Huizenga, who was elected to serve his fifth term representing Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District.

But the Republican will head back to a different Washington, D.C., this session, as Democrats won the majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

The dynamic creates some challenges, Huizenga said, but working across the aisle is always a part of the job as a member of Congress.

Huizenga, 49, gathered 55 percent of the vote Nov. 6, holding off a challenge from Democrat Dr. Rob Davidson. Davidson, an emergency room doctor and former Spring Lake school board trustee, was more successful than previous Democrats in the district, winning more than 40 percent of the vote in the general election.

Huizenga said outside money had a bigger impact than in previous elections, and this year’s race had never been so heavily televised. This required a hard look at the campaign budget, he said, but also required renewed efforts to connect with voters through digital advertising, social media and text messages.

Ballot issues such as the legalization of recreational marijuana, which was approved by Michigan voters, brought non-traditional voters to the polls, Huizenga said.

“Some things are different, some exactly the same, no matter how long you’ve been in this game,” he said. “The fundamentals are the same — which are, you communicate with people. I’ve talked about what I’ve done and planned to do.”

Door-to-door campaigning remained a key part of the strategy, he said. While Huizenga and Davidson debated twice, Huizenga said he chose to leave his opponent’s name out of advertisements.

“Not that they made the same choice,” Huizenga said of his opponent’s camp.

On some issues, the two candidates — and major political parties — cannot bridge gaps, Huizenga said. The congressman said that under no circumstances would he vote for a national health care system, a key component of Davidson’s platform.

But Huizenga said he has been talking about issues like health care, immigration and transportation since he was a staffer for former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra.

“A lot of those issues are the same issues,” Huizenga said. “Some things are bridgeable and we’re able to find some common ground.”

This summer, Huizenga spoke out against the Trump administration’s border-protection policies that forced the separation of migrant children from their parents. On most issues, however, Huizenga has aligned with the president and campaigned on the administration’s policies.

Many of the issues in which Huizenga said he works hand-in-hand with Democrats don’t get as much national attention, he said.

He has worked with Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat representing Queens, New York, on several bills. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, helped Huizenga get through to the Obama administration when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was unfairly targeting a West Michigan company, he noted.

Huizenga has served with Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, as co-chairpersons of the Great Lakes Task Force, addressing ecological and economic issues despite what Huizenga characterized as “polar opposite” views on a number of other issues.

“There is typically more cooperation and goodwill among members working through the function of government,” Huizenga said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have different ideas on how that works, but there’s more of that that actually happens.”

Huizenga will no longer chair the Capital Markets, Securities and Investment Subcommittee, and the Democrats will choose their party’s new Speaker of the House. Huizenga said the presumed chairperson of the House subcommittee will be Democrat Maxine Waters of California, who he said has focused this campaign season on the prospect of the impeachment of President Trump for alleged collusion with Russia.

Democrat Carolyn Maloney, of New York, has been an ally on the subcommittee, Huizenga added, working on issues such as modernizing accounting standards.

Funding the remainder of the fiscal year will be a priority when Congress goes into session, Huizenga said.

It’s back to work — but the election has changed the nature of that work.

“It’s going to be different,” Huizenga said. “No doubt.”

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