Former Trump immigration official launches campaign for Michigan congressional seat

By Malachi Barrett

A former immigration official in the Trump administration is the fourth candidate to seek the GOP nomination for Michigan’s 8th U.S. House District.

Brighton resident Paul Junge, 53, announced his campaign hours after the third Republican candidate entered the race on Thursday, Nov. 14. Junge is running to oppose U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, who Junge said is failing to represent the politically-mixed district.

“It’s going to take a candidate who can effectively articulate a message, not just to Republican and Democratic voters, but to independent voters,” Junge said.

Junge also plans to run a campaign focused on traditional Republican issues.

“I am running for Congress to defend the conservative values that make America strong, promote freedom and opportunity, and work with President Trump to stop the radical liberal agenda,” Junge said in a statement announcing his campaign.

Junge said he was born in Ann Arbor and raised by middle-class parents in Michigan and California. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and obtained his law degree from the University of San Diego before becoming a deputy district attorney in California.

Junge said he was called back to Michigan to help at a family contracting business that maintained housing for military families. Junge then pursued a career as a television news anchor and traveled to Colorado and back to Michigan again, where he was the lead anchor for Fox47 in Lansing.

Junge changed career tracks again after he was laid off, which spurred him to obtain a master of business administration degree from the University of Michigan. He later worked on Republican Terri Lynn Land’s unsuccessful 2014 U.S. Senate bid.

Though Land lost, Republicans gained control of the Senate in 2014. Junge went to Capitol Hill to work as investigative counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee under U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Junge befriended former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna, who gave him a job in the Trump administration. Junge said he had no qualms about policy decisions made while he was working at USCIS.

Junge said he dealt with media relations as an external affairs official for 8 months. He but left the administration to spend time with his ailing father, who died in July.

Junge lives in Brighton and said he will be campaigning full-time. He originally had no intention of running for office this election cycle but said constituents in the district felt there was no strong candidate to take on Slotkin.

Three other Republicans are running to take on Slotkin — East Lansing attorney Kristina Lyke, Howell resident Mike Detmer and Michigan state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder.

Junge said his experience in Washington D.C. and familiarity with the legislative process separates him from his GOP opponents.

“I have a sense of how things work,” Junge said. “I know Republican voters have a skeptical view of government, but I know it does important work and I think I can make the case to voters … I can help be an effective legislator more so than the other names who declared their candidacy.”

Last year’s 8th District race was the most expensive House contest Michigan has ever seen, according to an analysis by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. It attracted $28 million.

Junge noted the high fundraising amount, saying there wasn’t much time left for a “strong candidate” to enter the race and pull in enough money to be competitive. Slotkin has $1.7 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to Federal Elections Committee documents.

Junge said he’s been talking with Republican state legislators in the 8th District and attending local GOP events during the last several months.

Slotkin flipped a formerly Republican seat in 2018 and has been the target of partisan attacks since supporting the inquiry into Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The former CIA analyst previously opposed pursuing impeachment but said Trump’s conduct raises national security concerns.

Slotkin said Trump may have committed impeachable acts by soliciting a foreign leader to interfere in the upcoming election. However, Slotkin said she is waiting for the inquiry to conclude before deciding whether she would vote to remove Trump from office.

Though Junge said he understands others believe Trump acted inappropriately, but the president’s conduct “doesn’t even come close to an impeachable offense.” Junge said Slotkin’s hasn’t upheld her campaign promises by deciding to support the inquiry.

“She campaigned as a moderate middle-ground person not interested in impeaching the president, and yet the single biggest thing she’s made progress on is urging members of Congress to vote out the president,” he said.

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