With the gubernatorial and Senate races set for 2014, all the primary action will be in the congressional districts. The Republican Party currently holds a 9-5 edge in the congressional delegation to Washington. Two Democrats and two Republicans are vacating their seats. John Dingell in the 12th and Gary Peters in the 14th districts are the retiring Democrats and both of these districts are not expected to flip to the GOP column. The two districts currently in Republican hands could be considered vulnerable.
In the 1st Congressional district GOP primary, incumbent Dan Benischek, who first won election in 2010, will face businessman and activist Alan Arcand. This district encompasses the entire north peninsula and is rated +4 Republican by Cook. Benischek can best be described as a rank-and-file, moderate Republican. This is a targeted district by the Democrats who narrowly lost in 2012 falling short by a half a percentage point behind Benischek. This time out, Jerry Cannon will be the Democratic candidate. Thus far, the League of Conservation Voters have run ads in the district critical of Benischek’s stance on global warming which, in my book, gives him a leg up. Benischek may not be the ideal conservative, but he is the more likely to keep this district in the hands of the GOP. If anything, he has shown himself to be a survivor having beat off his Democratic challenger with Obama at the top of the ticket. Cannon will not have Obama’s coat tails this time out and this is a fairly conservative district. Thus far, Cannon’s campaign has stressed the minimum wage and Paycheck Fairness Act as means to address the needs of northern Michigan. This writer would endorse Dan Benischek in the Republican primary.
Bill Huzienga faces no competition in the 2nd, but incumbent Justin Amash will face Brian Ellis in the 3rd. This Grand Rapids-based district is rated +5 by Cook. Amash won easily in 2010- a GOP wave year- and had a tougher time in 2012. Whoever wins will face Bob Goodrich in the general election. Ellis has come under attack lately for actions he took while an East Grand Rapids School Trustee and for positions he held in Jennifer Granholm’s (a Democrat) administration. These charges come from the Club for Growth, a conservative organization. Amash is considered conservative enough, but with a libertarian streak at times. Ellis is trying to exploit that by attacking “Amash’s Strange Votes.” This district is sufficiently conservative enough and Goodrich is an “I am a businessman so vote for me” Democrat trying to exploit the “war on women” theme. This writer supports the reelection Justin Amash.
The 4th District (rated +4 GOP by Cook) is being vacated by Republican Dave Camp. Generally, in a district this close in the Cook ratings when an established incumbent Republican is retiring, there may be cause for worry. That is not the case here because of two factors. First, a Democrat has not held this district since 1935. Second, the Democratic opponent this year is a weak dark horse at best. There are three Republicans in the mix all with some political experience: 2012 US Senate candidate Peter Konetchy, state GOP finance chair Paul Mitchell, and state senator Pat Moolenaar. Thus far, Mitchell has been attacking Moolenaar as if he is the GOP front-runner which would make sense since Camp has personally endorsed Moolenaar as his successor. Konetchy announced plans to run for the seat prior to Camp’s retirement announcement. After looking at their websites and reading other sources on the candidates, it seem likely that Moolenaar will win the nomination although my personal choice would be Peter Konetchy.
Dan Kildee, a Democrat, represents the 5th District and unseating him will be difficult. The two Republicans fighting it out to lose in November are Allen Hardwick and Tom Whitmire. Hardwick seems most concerned about the national debt while Whitmire is on some kind of district nutrition enhancement theme. Because of his main campaign theme… Allen Hardwick.
In the Kalamazoo-based 6th District, incumbent Fred Upton faces Jim Bussler for the right to take on Democrat Paul Clements in the fall. This district is rated +1 for the GOP by Cook and that is too close to risk running a non-incumbent. The knock on Upton is that he is not conservative enough and he has come under attack by various conservative groups and figures including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots. Additionally, his longevity in the House (since 1987) may be a strike against him in a year when Congress is not particularly popular. My major concern with Upton is his waffling stances on climate change legislation over the years. Bussler’s political experience has been as an activist for Ron Paul in Michigan in the past. As stated, in such a politically borderline district, it might be necessary to go with Fred Upton.
On paper, the 6th is marginally Republican at +3 by Cook. In fact, incumbent Tim Walberg’s electoral performances have been either very close victories or very narrow defeats. Part of this is because Walberg is a perennial target of the Democrats since he is considered “far right.” Lansing, a college town, is in this district and the far right persona does not play well there. Thus, it is usually Lansing that causes these elections to be closer than they should be. The good news this year is that no Democrat has emerged yet to run in this district. Walberg is facing Douglas Radcliffe North and Pam Byrnes in the primary. The latter sounds like an advertisement for the NEA with her call for universal pre-K and increased funding for schools which is enough to turn me off. And, quite frankly, there is nothing to turn me onto North. This may be Walberg’s easiest chance at victory and the endorsement goes to Tim Walberg.
Mike Rogers, the GOP incumbent in the 8th District, announced his retirement this year. The 8th is also a marginally Republican district. Obviously, the Democrats see this as a big opportunity to gain a seat out of Michigan. Rogers had represented the 8th since 2001. While 4 Democrats have entered the scramble, only two Republicans- ex-state senate majority leader Mike Bishop and state representative Tom McMillin- are on the primary ballot. Bishop has received the endorsement of Rogers. McMillin has the support of the Tea Party contingent of the party. Rogers was viewed as a rank-and-file Republican and by proxy so is Bishop. Many may view this as another establishment vs. Tea Party battle within the Party, but it is considerably under the radar. Regardless, given McMillin’s late start and the endorsement by Rogers of Bishop, this writer believes that Mike Bishop would be the best fit for this district.
The final GOP primary in Michigan will be in the 11th where incumbent Kerry Bentivolio will face Dave Trott. This district is based in the Detroit suburbs and Bentovolio was heavily targeted by the Democrats in the past election when Thaddeus McCotter failed to get enough signatures. However, except for some brief breaks in the FDR years and only once since has a Democrat held this seat. Their strongest chance was in 2012 with Syed Taj, but Bentivolio won by 6 points. There is no doubt that redistricting favored Bentivolio in 2012 as the district he ran in was more Republican than the one McCotter represented. This has all the earmarks of 2012 again. Then, Bentivolio’s primary opponent outspent him, but he prevailed. Trott has seriously out-raised and outspent him this year, but scant polling points to a Bentivolio victory.
Trott is trotting out a well-worn tune now: “I am a business owner. I know how to create jobs. That translates into being a good Congressman.” To be sure, Bentivolio’s past campaigns have been mired in some controversy, but he seems to have survived. A favorite of the Tea Party Express, Bentivolio’s biggest drawback seems to be his inability to raise campaign funds, so 2014 is nothing new. All-in-all this would seem to be a more tranquil campaign than 2012. With that being said, this writer would endorse Kerry Bentivolio.