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Levin, Peters Drawn Together Under New Michigan Map

Michigan Republicans played it safe in their proposed redraw of the state’s Congressional map, shoring up GOP Members in competitive districts in an attempt to retain nine House seats.

As expected, the proposed map released Friday also moves Democratic Reps. Gary Peters and Sander Levin into the same district north of Detroit, setting up a potential matchup between two incumbents.

As a result of population loss in the state, Michigan is losing a seat, bringing the delegation down to 14 Members. The map proposed by GOP lawmakers, who control the redistricting process, mostly attempts to solidify the current districts and shifts territory among Democratic House Members in the Detroit region.

“My initial reaction is that I think the Republicans appear to be surprisingly generous in this map, compared to what they might have tried to do,” said Bill Ballenger, a non-partisan Michigan political analyst.

Veteran GOP Reps. Dave Camp, Fred Upton and Thaddeus McCotter, as well as recently returned Rep. Tim Walberg, all saw more Republican voters moved into their respective districts. Even more advantageous for Walberg is the removal of Calhoun County, which is the home and base of the incumbent he defeated in 2010, ex-Rep. Mark Schauer (D).

Republicans also moved more GOP voters into the district of freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R), who won an open seat last cycle after longtime Democratic Rep Bart Stupak (D) retired. Freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga’s (R) solidly Republican western 2nd district remains pretty much intact under the proposed map, only acquiring the remainder of Allegan County.

The GOP’s odd man out appears to be freshman Rep. Justin Amash, whose 3rd district in central-Michigan now stretches south to include Calhoun County, becoming more competitive in the process.

“What they’ve come up with is a 9-5 map. The Democratic five seats — Republicans are never going to win those five seats. They’re 55 percent and above,” said Ballenger. “On the other hand, of the nine Republican seats, there are two to three that the Democrats could conceivably win. They’re 53 [percent] Republican districts. They’re not that strong.”

Peters and Levin immediately took issue with the map and released a joint statement Friday calling on the state Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to reject it. Peters is faced with the most difficult choice in the delegation: Run against his colleague, Levin, in mostly new territory, or run in the GOP-favored district currently represented by McCotter.

“We’ve talked it over and we both deeply feel that our priority must be to get these maps changed for the betterment of democracy,” Levin told reporters Friday on a conference call. “We very much agree on this. This is indefensible. … Gary and I have talked a lot, and we both have that depth of feeling.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R), who had already announced a bid for Congress, was also drawn into McCotter’s district instead of the seat once held by his father, former Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R), who lost to Peters in 2008.

Marty Knollenberg told Roll Call that unless something changes to alter the proposed map, he’ll drop his bid for Congress.

“In the current map that is drawn, the simple answer is, ‘No.’ I’m not going to run against a Republican incumbent,” Marty Knollenberg said. “My hope was to get the district that we lost two and a half years ago. … If now is not my time, I’m young enough. I’m 47 years old.”

The proposed map was embroiled in negotiations until the last minute Friday. Sources close to the process say Upton took a leading role in negotiating the new map with the governor and state legislators, with Camp and fellow GOP Rep. Candice Miller assisting.

The GOP-controlled state Legislature expects to vote on the map in the coming weeks, with hopes of sending it to the governor’s desk before the July Fourth holiday.