Election 2014 Lots of open U.S. House seats in Michigan this year

By Mike Householder

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) - The more things change with Michigan's U.S. House delegation, the more they stay the same.

The state is guaranteed to send four new faces to Congress after the Nov. 4 election, thanks to open seats. That number most likely will grow to five when factoring in the Detroit-area 11th District, where incumbent Rep. Kerry Bentivolio lost decisively in the Republican primary but has a declared as a write-in candidate.

Regardless, the current 9-5 GOP advantage appears relatively safe.

Democrats' best chance could come in northern Michigan's sprawling 1st District, where two-term Republican Rep. Dan Benishek is being challenged by Jerry Cannon, a retired Army National Guard major general and longtime Kalkaska County sheriff.

The district was represented by Democrat Bart Stupak for nine terms before Benishek, a tea party-affiliated surgeon from Crystal Falls, won the open seat four years ago.

Benishek won re-election in 2012 by fewer than 1,900 votes, and the Democrats saw an opening.

Cannon, a former commander at Guantanamo Bay who later led U.S. detainee operations in Iraq, is pushing his military past as part of an effort to appeal to the nearly 12 percent of voting-age residents in the district who once served in the U.S. military.

Matt Grossmann, a political science professor at Michigan State University, says he expects the 1st District race "should go Republican, barring changes in national conditions, unexpected campaign events or a large turnout advantage for Democrats."

Still, Benishek is campaigning as if he's concerned, Grossmann said.

Other closely watched contests in November include south-central Michigan's 7th District, which features a race between three-term GOP Rep. Tim Walberg and former Democratic state Rep. Pam Byrnes; the 8th, where former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and Democratic Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing are running for the seat vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Mike Rogers in a district that stretches from Lansing to the northern Detroit suburbs; and the 11th District race, which pits Republican lawyer David Trott against counterterrorism expert Bobby McKenzie, a Democrat.

David Dulio, who chairs Oakland University's political science department, said even though Michigan has a handful of competitive congressional races this election cycle, "the GOP candidate in each has significant advantages and is quite likely to win."

"This is a midterm election, and these kinds of cycles are typically bad for the president's party in Congress," Dulio said. "This, combined with the national political dynamics at the moment, point in this being a similar year."

National election-watchers expect Republicans to tighten their majority grip on the House of Representatives, adding seats as President Barack Obama's unpopularity drags down Democrats.

Plus, helpful redistricting after the 2010 census is boosting Republican prospects in the Great Lakes state and elsewhere.

McKenzie is aware of forces working against the party this year, but he believes hard work may turn the tide in his race.

"Trott is certainly going to outspend me," he told supporters during a recent campaign rally at a United Auto Workers hall in Livonia. "I need your help to win. We're going to win. It's going to be door to door, city to city. That's how we'll win it."

The other three open seats in Michigan are expected to remain in the current party's possession.

Republican state Sen. John Moolenaar of Midland is favored to defeat Democrat Jeff Holmes, a physician from Alma, for the 4th District seat held by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, who is retiring after 24 years in Congress.

Similarly, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is projected to take the heavily Democratic 14th District seat now held by Rep. Gary Peters, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, and Democrat Debbie Dingell of Dearborn is likely to win her husband John's 12th District seat.

John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, is retiring at year's end,

Elsewhere, Republican incumbents Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, Justin Amash of Kent County's Cascade Township, Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Candice Miller of Macomb County's Harrison Township are expected to win new terms, as should Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint, Sander Levin of Royal Oak and John Conyers of Detroit.

Published: Mon, Nov 03, 2014

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