By Corey Williams, Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — Just as Michigan helped propel Donald Trump to the White House, the state could play a role in tipping the balance of control in the U.S. House back in favor of the Democratic Party from a Republican majority.
Republican incumbents face strong challenges in two congressional races, while a third open House district appears to be up for grabs.
One closely watched race is for the 8th District, which covers parts of Oakland County in suburban Detroit and extends west and northwest into Ingham County and Lansing. Democratic candidate Elissa Slotkin is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in the Nov. 6 general election.
Democrat Gretchen Driskell also is giving Republican Tim Walberg a run in the 7th District.
In the open 11th District, both Republican Lena Epstein and Democrat Haley Stevens have never run for office but have experience in federal politics.
“We’re a good national microcosm in some ways in competitive races,” said Matt Grossmann, Michigan State University political science professor. “The overall national trend is toward Democratic enthusiasm. That’s pretty typical in the first midterm of a Republican president. Overall, Democrats are a little more excited than Republicans and especially more excited than those people who solely participated in 2016 because of Trump.”
Michael Joyce, Republican National Committee communications director for Indiana and Michigan, said it’s no secret what’s at stake nationally.
“This is a midterm election and we understand the odds are against us,” he said. “We’re getting out our voters and working to get our incumbents across the finish line, and our newcomers, like Lena. We feel confident we feel good about the races, but there’s a long way to go.”
There is the potential that Democrats will flip anywhere from two to five U.S. House seats in Michigan, said Brandon Dillon, Michigan Democratic Party chair.
“I really like where Haley Stevens is at in the 11th,” Dillon said. “I think Slotkin is surging ahead of Mike Bishop. The 6th, the 7th and the 1st are all districts in play.”
The 11th District — and to some extent — the 8th District are suburban areas “we might expect the demographic trends to be moving in the Democrats direction, Grossman added.
Here’s a look at the key House races in Michigan
Slotkin is giving Bishop all he can handle.
Bishop is “having trouble kind of distinguishing himself from the national Republican Party,” Grossman said. “He doesn’t stand out the same way Republicans in the district used to.”
Joyce disagreed, saying Bishop’s constituents like his results.
“The economy is booming and jobs are coming back to Michigan,” Joyce said. “Voters see we are the ones getting things done right.”
Dillon called the race “a slugfest.”
“She is the most qualified candidate that I’ve ever seen run for Congress in Michigan and around the country,” he said of Slotkin who worked as a CIA analyst and on national security in the administrations of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Also running is Libertarian Brian Ellison and U.S. Taxpayers’ candidate David Lillis.
In 2016, Trump barely won this district in Detroit’s northwest suburbs. Epstein, a businesswoman and Trump’s Michigan campaign co-chair, hopes to replace Republican Dave Trott who is stepping down.
Stevens was the auto bailout chief of staff under Obama.
“Most of the models have it on the Democratic side, if not a toss-up,” Grossman said. “It’s an open seat in a year when the Democrats are expected to win most of the open seat races.”
Libertarian Leonard Schwartz and Cooper Nye, an Independent, also are on the ballot.
Grossman said this district is on the list of potential threatened races for Republicans, but few expect Democrat Gretchen Driskell, former mayor of Saline and state House representative, to defeat five-term incumbent Republican Tim Walberg.
The district covers a large swath of southern Michigan from Monroe county, northeast into Eaton County.
This district covers all of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a good chunk of the northern Lower Peninsula. Most election models have first-term Republican Rep. Jack Bergman as the favorite over Democrat Matthew Morgan, Grossman said.
“It would require an extraordinary Democratic year, overall, and a more specific kind of indication that working-class voters that thought they were moving toward Republicans were turned off by Donald Trump’s first couple of years,” he said.
Democrat Andy Levin hopes to succeed his father, Sandy Levin, who decided not to seek re-election to a 19th term. Republican Candius Stearns, John McDermott of the Green Party and Working Class Party candidate Andrea Kirby are challenging him.
Republican incumbents Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, John Moolenaar, Fred Upton and Paul Mitchell are expected to hang onto their respective seats in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 10th districts.
Similarly, Democrats Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence should win re-election in the heavily Democratic 5th, 12th and 14th districts.
Democrat Rashida Tlaib faces Green Party candidate D. Etta Wilcoxon and Working Class candidate Sam Johnson for a full term in the 13th District.
Tlaib is a heavy favorite in the strongly Democratic district in the Detroit area. The Palestinian-American and Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Democrat running for the House in Minnesota, could become the first Muslim women in Congress.
Longtime Rep. John Conyers stepped down late last year after sexual harassment claims by female former staffers.