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New map scrambles Michigan House delegation

Stevens, Levin will face off in primary, and they may not be the only ones

From left, Michigan Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee, Rashida Tlaib, Haley Stevens, and Andy Levin join arms as they walk down the Capitol steps before a ceremony paying respect to the late Rep. John Dingell in 2019.
From left, Michigan Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee, Rashida Tlaib, Haley Stevens, and Andy Levin join arms as they walk down the Capitol steps before a ceremony paying respect to the late Rep. John Dingell in 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Michigan’s House delegation was left scrambling Wednesday after the state’s nonpartisan redistricting commission finalized new congressional maps that eliminated one district while putting eight incumbents in four shared districts and creating three new open seats. 

In the hours after the map was released Tuesday evening several incumbents — including Democrats Elissa Slotkin and Debbie Dingell and Republican John Moolenaar — announced they would move to run in districts where they faced better odds or to avoid running against one of their colleagues. 

Democrat Haley Stevens, who has been on Republican target lists for the last two cycles, announced she would move to the newly drawn 11th District to face Andy Levin, a scion of one of the state’s best-known political dynasties, in what is sure to be an expensive and hotly contested Democratic primary. Meanwhile, two incumbents — Republican Fred Upton and Democrat Brenda Lawrence — left their plans open-ended. That led to speculation about whether they would retire, move to new districts, or — in Upton’s case — set up another member-on-member primary against Rep. Bill Huizenga.

Candidates have until April 19 to file to run in the Aug. 2 primary.

With the new maps also expected to face legal challenges in the next several months, the only certainty was that the stakes are high. Michigan’s delegation, currently evenly split between 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats, will lose a member in 2022 to account for population changes in the 2020 census. 

Here’s a look at the highlights:

District 3: First-term Republican Peter Meijer has said he will run again in the new 3rd District, which will become more competitive for Democrats. Meijer won his seat by almost 6 percentage points while President Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by 3 points. Under the new boundaries, Biden would have carried the district by 8 points, according to calculations by Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections. Meijer is one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, and Trump endorsed his primary challenger, John Gibbs, in November. Strategists from both sides of the aisle told CQ Roll Call that Meijer’s reputation as a one of the more independent voices in the GOP — along with a name made famous by his family’s grocery chain — could be advantageous in a more left-leaning district. But Democrats hope the right recruit could make this a marquee race. 

District 4: The new maps put the residences of Republicans Huizenga and Upton in the new 4th District, which Trump would have won by 4 points in 2020, according to Inside Elections. Huizenga, who currently represents one of the state’s most conservative districts, announced that he would run again. But Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and was first elected in 1986, has said only that he does not plan to move. A third Republican, state Rep. Steve Carra, had Trump’s endorsement to challenge Upton but now lives in what would become the 5th District. That’s home to the more right-leaning Rep. Tim Walberg, so Carra might move to still run in the 4th, state-based strategists said. 

District 6: Dingell, who succeeded her husband, John Dingell, in Congress in 2014 after he had been the longest-serving House member in history, announced Wednesday that she will move to run in the 6th District, which will take in most of her current constituents. What it doesn’t include is her hometown of Dearborn, and Dingell said she chose to move rather than run against her Democratic colleague, Brenda Lawrence, in the new 12th District. The 6th District would have voted for Biden by 27 points in 2020, according to Inside Elections. 

District 7: Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who was already a top Republican target, announced she would move to run here after her current home was drawn into the same heavily GOP-leaning district as Republican incumbent Lisa McClain. The new 7th District would have voted for Biden by 1 point in 2020. Slotkin noted in a message to supporters Wednesday that it will take in two counties that were part of her old district, but it will also become more rural and take in areas where she has never been on the ballot. “Not only is this the most competitive House race in the state of Michigan, it’s one of the most competitive in the country,” she wrote. Slotkin also picks up a new challenger who Republicans see as a top recruit, state Sen. Tom Barrett, who served as a helicopter pilot in Kuwait and Iraq. 

District 8: Democrat Dan Kildee, already a Republican target, will have to defend a slightly more right-leaning district under the new map. It would have voted for Biden by 2 points, according to Inside Elections, versus the 4-point win Biden got in Kildee’s current 5th District. He is also likely to face a well-known Republican challenger, former state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has not formally announced but was mentioned as a potential candidate by several strategists who spoke to CQ Roll Call. But Kildee also has a well-known name in the district and, in the absence of competitive challengers in past cycles, has been able to focus on constituent services that matter to voters. “I would never bet against Rep. Kildee,” said Democratic strategist Ian Russell. “That guy is a tough campaigner who has been delivering for that district.” Moolenaar, a Republican whose home is also in this district, announced Tuesday night that he would run instead in the new 2nd District, which would have voted for Trump by 28 points. 

District 10: This open seat is expected to be one of the state’s most competitive races and Republican John James, who raised $48.7 million in his loss to Sen. Gary Peters last year,  is a potential candidate. Trump would have won the district by 1 point in 2020 under the current map, according to Inside Elections. 

District 11: Levin and Stevens, who both won their first races in the 2018 Democratic wave, are expected to be evenly matched in a primary. Levin, the more progressive of the two, has the advantage of a well-known family name. His father Sander Levin represented the region in the House for more than three decades and his uncle Carl Levin served as a senator for even longer. Stevens, though, brings more experience running competitive campaigns after two cycles as a top GOP target. 

District 12: The Detroit-area 12th remains solidly Democratic — it would have voted for Biden by 49 points, according to Inside Elections. But Lawrence, a four-term Democrat from the now-eliminated 14th District, has not announced whether she will run there after voicing concerns about the way Black neighborhoods could be carved up. That has raised speculation that Lawrence — who is Black — would move districts or retire.

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