DETROIT (AP) — Michigan’s election campaign pivoted Wednesday from a primary that marked a changing in the guard for the state’s congressional delegation to a main event featuring marquee fall races for governor and U.S. Senate.
The primary Tuesday did set the stage for the Dingell family’s 81-year dynasty in the House to continue with Debbie Dingell expected to succeed her husband, retiring Rep. John Dingell. And Rep. John Conyers is set to follow Dingell as the new longest-serving active House member after his primary victory in a heavily Democratic district.
Voters also handed a resounding, though unsurprising, defeat to Republican Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who was described as the “accidental” congressman when he was elected in 2012 after former Rep. Thad McCotter turned in fraudulent voter signatures for a ballot spot in suburban Detroit’s 11th District.
But those outcomes were the warmup to gubernatorial and Senate contests that are considered among the marquee races in the nation and likely to flood the airwaves with millions of dollars of ads from outside groups between now and November. The main candidates in both those races were unopposed in the primaries.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s Democratic opponent, former one-term congressman Mark Schauer, quickly began the political jockeying for November by challenging the governor to participate in debates.
Snyder’s election night statement ignored his opponent and focused on the overwhelming voter approval of a legislative-backed mechanism to ensure local governments lose no money as a $500 million tax cut for business is implemented. He told reporters Wednesday near Traverse City that “we’ll get into the debate thing,” suggesting the Detroit Economic Club as a potential host.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to put aside partisan differences and all work together to once again help relieve the tax burden on Michiganders,” he said.
A former computer company executive who says he is not a politician, Snyder has made progress in restoring Michigan’s economy to health after the auto industry’s collapse that nearly put General Motors and Chrysler out of business. He has presided over the creation of 250,000 private-sector jobs and confronted Detroit’s worsening financial problems.
But his decisions to sign a right-to-work law enraged unions and an overhaul of the tax system angered Democrats. Some conservatives are upset about his embrace of the Medicaid expansion for the poor under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Snyder has yet to pull away from his opponent in opinion polls.
The Senate race is also competitive featuring former Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Rep. Gary Peters vying for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. Peters has opened a small lead in polling of late although Republicans hold out hope that a Land victory could be one of the six seats they need to gain in order to take majority control of the chamber.
Peters, who has called for debates with Land, named former Lt. Gov. John Cherry as his debate negotiator Wednesday.
The Michigan ballot on Tuesday featured another Republican congressional incumbent surviving a hard-fought battle — Grand Rapids-area Rep. Justin Amash over business-backed investment adviser Brian Ellis in the Republican-leaning 3rd District. In races for the state Legislature, GOP incumbents managed to fend off most tea party challenges over their votes on Medicaid and Common Core education standards.
The changing of the guard in the state’s 14-member House delegation began with nominees chosen in four open seats, the most since 1992 after incumbents decided not to seek re-election.
The vacant seats are held by Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who has been in Congress for a record 58 years, and will retire along with Republicans Reps. Dave Camp of Midland and Mike Rogers of Howell, who chair the House Ways and Means and Intelligence committees respectively. A fourth House seat is opening up because Peters, of Bloomfield Township, is running for the Senate.
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and state Rep. Rudy Hobbs were locked in a tight race for the nomination to replace Peters in the Democratic-heavy 14th District covering parts of Detroit and its suburbs. She declared victory after unofficial results showed her ahead.
State Sen. John Moolenaar — who received support from tea party, business and anti-abortion groups — 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 tea party-backed state Rep. Tom McMillin.
AP reporters Ed White in Livonia, John Flesher in Traverse City and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
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