Actor Hill Harper brings empathy, advocacy, and progressive values to U.S. Senate race

You’ve probably seen Hill Harper on television.

Known for his roles in The Good Doctor, Limitless, and CSI:NY, Harper is a talented, versatile actor who brings depth and nuance to his characters. He has earned a loyal fan base because of his ability to authentically convey complex character traits.

That experience, he says, has taught him a lot about how other people live, and that compassion is what prompted him to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Debbie Stabenow, who is retiring.

He has emerged as the progressive challenger to frontrunner U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin.

“Being a performer, an artist, and an actor, you spend your life in other people’s shoes,” Harper tells Metro Times. “You don’t judge your characters. You try to learn from them.”

Off of television, Harper has shown the same compassion for less fortunate people. The 58-year-old has been a philanthropist and an advocate for higher living wages, universal health care, education, small businesses, criminal justice reform, labor unions, and civil rights. He has served as a spokesperson for the Innocence Project and One Fair Wage and served on former President Barack Obama’s Cancer Panel.

Hill says so much is at stake in the Aug. 6 primary election. While he and Slotkin are both Democrats, their platforms and experiences are far different.

“There is a massive difference between her and me,” Hill says.

Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and Department of Defense official and has established herself as a centrist whose support of Israel has turned off many voters. She voted against a 2020 amendment that would have provided $10,000 in relief on private student loans, opposed removing tax breaks for oil companies tapping into their reserves in 2023, and rejected a bill to prevent Department of Defense contracts with employers found engaging in unfair labor practices. She’s also been accused of not advocating enough for communities of color.

Slotkin failed to join fellow Democrats in cosponsoring progressive bills such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

Slotkin has received more than $500,000 from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other pro-Israel groups, according to AIPAC tracker. She joined House Republicans last week in sanctioning the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its prosecutors called for the arrest of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister for crimes against humanity.

“It’s a sad day when our elected representatives are putting special interest dollars in support of their campaign over the truth,” Harper says. “It’s outrageous that 40,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, most of whom are women and children. Who sits in these seats is a matter of life and death. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s real. Michigan voters have to decide: Do you want someone to be your next senator who didn’t do the right thing when it mattered? The answer consistently with my opponent is no.”

While Hill has no experience as an elected official, his resume is undeniably impressive. He attended the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in 1968 and has degrees from Brown University and Harvard Law, where Obama was also a student. He and Obama even played basketball together in a prison to interact with inmates.

“I looked up to Obama, not because he was taller than me, but because he was almost 30 years old coming back to school to contribute to the goals he had,” Harper says.

A cancer survivor, Harper served on Obama’s Cancer Panel, which is tasked with combating the disease.

But Harper has an uphill battle to become the state’s first Black U.S. senator. Polls from last month show Slotkin winning by wide margins, and she is trouncing Harper in fundraising.

But Harper is not one to give up, and he believes the momentum is beginning to shift in his favor. He says many Democrats who are worried about a low turnout in the presidential election in November are beginning to realize that his name on the general election ballot would bring out voters who otherwise would stay home.

“The seeds are getting planted, and now the momentum is shifting toward us because people are realizing there is a stark difference between my opponent and me,” Harper says. “I’m interested in making solutions for people and leading with empathy and compassion and trying to understand why people feel how they feel. That, to me, is where we have to get to in politics. And I think that’s why my campaign is resonating with people.”

Harper was hoping to face Slotkin in debates and candidate forums, but he says she has ducked out of them all.

To demonstrate that his candidacy is about the people, Harper began airing an ad this week that showed a diverse array of people signing a Senate seat.

“This seat represents the diversity of our people, communities, and businesses,” Harper says in the ad. “And that’s why I’m here — to fight for you. This is your seat.”

If elected, Harper tells Metro Times he will use that chair to represent Michigan in Washington D.C.

“I’m going to be a microphone for all of us,” Harper says. “It’s our seat. It’s Michigan’s seat in this 100-person body that decides how $7.2 trillion is allocated.”

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