DETROIT (AP) — A Republican incumbent once dubbed the “accidental” congressman was handily defeated in Michigan’s primary election Tuesday while a second House conservative fended off a challenge as voters began a changing of the guard in the state’s congressional delegation that also included choosing nominees in four open seats.
Suburban Detroit lawyer David Trott easily defeated one-term Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who many believe won the election in 2012 only because a GOP incumbent was knocked off the ballot due to fraudulent petition signatures.
“I live in his district and never see him,” said Ralph Martin, 76, of Livonia, who voted for Trott over Bentivolio. “I couldn’t even form an opinion of him.”
Trott, 53, spent $2.4 million of his own money on the race and secured backing from business groups and others in the GOP establishment, while Bentivolio — a former auto designer, teacher and reindeer farmer — struggled to compete and lost two-to-one in the voting. In November, Trott will face counterterrorism expert Bobby McKenzie, who narrowly won a four-way Democratic primary in the GOP-leaning 11th District.
Two-term Republican Rep. Justin Amash in the Grand Rapids area won a hard-fought battle with business-backed investment adviser Brian Ellis in the Republican-leaning 3rd District.
“This was a huge victory for liberty, the Constitution and ordinary Americans,” Amash said in a statement.
The Michigan ballot also had scores of legislative races and a lone statewide proposal — by which voters approved a mechanism to ensure local governments lose no money in a business tax cut — but no showdowns in races for governor and U.S. Senate. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will face Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in the fall, while the GOP’s Terri Lynn Land will square off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for a Senate seat.
Bentivolio was only the third House incumbent to lose a primary this year, following Texas Rep. Ralph Hall and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. In his concession speech, Bentivolio accused state Republican Party leaders of embracing “money over ideas and cronyism over principles.”
“The revolution in the Republican Party is going to continue, and it’s not going to be based on hating the other guys worse. It’s going to be founded on loving the country more,” he said.
Voters also began the process of filling four seats that incumbents will leave at year’s end.
Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who has been in Congress for a record 58 years, will retire along with Republicans Reps. Dave Camp of Midland and Mike Rogers of Howell. A fourth House seat is opening up because Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Carl Levin.
It is the most open seats since 1992, when redistricting, retirements and a primary upset ushered out seven of 18 House members.
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and state Rep. Rudy Hobbs were locked atop a tight four-way race to replace Peters in his Democratic-heavy district. It was too close to call early Wednesday.
State Sen. John Moolenaar defeated businessman Paul Mitchell in the GOP primary for Camp’s Republican-leaning 4th District in central Michigan, despite Mitchell spending $5 million of his own money.
In the Republican primary in Rogers’ GOP-leaning 8th District, which stretches from Lansing to the northern Detroit suburbs, former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop beat state Rep. Tom McMillin. He will face Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing, who won a four-way Democratic primary.
Republican Reps. Fred Upton and Tim Walberg in southern Michigan defeated challengers. So did GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in northern Michigan and Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Detroit.
With a win in his Democratic-heavy district, Conyers is well on his way to succeeding Dingell as the longest-serving member of the House in the new Congress.
And Dingell’s wife, Debbie, was expected to extend the Dingell family dynasty beyond its 81-year run after she won the Democratic nomination for a district that covers Ann Arbor and the “Downriver” working-class Detroit suburbs. Before John Dingell held the seat, his father John Dingell Sr. represented the district for 22 ½ years.
Voters approved a proposal written by the Legislature designed to ensure local governments and schools are fully reimbursed as taxes are gradually slashed on businesses’ personal property such as machines. The plan — which would not raise taxes — received broad bipartisan support from lawmakers, Snyder, the business community and groups representing counties, cities and townships.
AP reporters Ed White in Livonia, John Flesher in Traverse City and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
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