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Nominees Set in Competitive Michigan House Race

Indian-American finishes first in Washington primary for safe Democratic seat

Rep. Dan Benishek's retirement set off a battleground race to replace him in Michigan's 1st District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Dan Benishek's retirement set off a battleground race to replace him in Michigan's 1st District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated Aug. 5 |  Voters in Washington and Michigan have selected their nominees in three open congressional seats, one of which is a battleground district.  

In Michigan’s 1st District, a competitive seat in November, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman won the Republican nomination in Tuesday’s primary. Current GOP Rep. Dan Benishek is retiring at the end of this term.   

Bergman will face former state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson in November in a race that The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates as Leans Republican . Democrats are targeting this open seat this cycle, with House Majority PAC reserving air time in both Traverse City and Marquette.   

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the 1st District by 9 points in 2012, while President Barack Obama carried it by 2 points in 2008.   


Roll Call’s 2016 Election Guide


Democrats have been excited about Johnson and his ability to raise campaign cash. He’s married to Julianna Smoot, Obama’s 2012 deputy campaign manager and a former national finance director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.   

Johnson has $178,000 in the bank, while Bergman ended the pre-primary reporting period with $37,000 . Bergman funded much of his primary campaign himself. He won with 39 percent of the vote, defeating state Sen. Tom Casperson, Benishek’s choice to replace him, and former state Sen. Jason Allen. Defending Main Street, a super PAC which backs establishment Republicans, had spent on ads targeting Allen and in favor of Casperson.   

Michigan’s 10th District isn’t competitive in the general election, so businessman Paul Mitchell’s win in the Republican primary means he’s likely the next member of Congress from the safe GOP seat. He self-funded much of his primary campaign.   

Current 10th District Republican Rep. Candice S. Miller, the sole female GOP committee chair, is retiring to run for public works commissioner  in Macomb County instead.   


Congress Set to Get a Little More Diverse After Tuesday


Democrats had a primary in a safe seat of their own Tuesday night. In Washington, state Rep. Pramila Jayapal finished first in the nine-candidate field in the 7th District. She won 38 percent of the vote.  

The top two finishers will advance to the general election, but the second-place finisher hasn’t been determined yet. With 94 percent of precincts reporting Friday evening, Brady Pinero Walkinshaw was in second place, ahead of Joe McDermott — no relation to the sitting congressman — by 487 votes.   

No matter who wins in November, the next member from this Seattle district will add some diversity to Congress when he or she replaces McDermott, who’s retiring after 28 years in the House. Jayapal is an immigrant from India and both Joe McDermott and Walkinshaw are openly gay.  


Establishment-Backed Republican Unseats House Freedom Caucus Member


In Kansas, 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp became the fourth incumbent of the year to lose , losing his GOP primary to OB-GYN Roger Marshall 56 to 44 percent. But the defeat of a Freedom Caucus member by an establishment-backed Republican could embolden the caucus’ electoral efforts going forward. 

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