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Michigan poised to be House battleground all year

Member-vs.-member primaries precede competitive fall races

Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., faces a toss-up race for a second term, according to elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales.
Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., faces a toss-up race for a second term, according to elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — In the wake of a close presidential race in 2020, Michigan is poised to be a House battleground in 2022. The state will host a pack of competitive primary and general elections later this year. 

Currently, the state’s House delegation is evenly divided between seven Republicans and seven Democrats. It was guaranteed that one party would lose a seat when Michigan’s delegation shrunk by one seat due to reapportionment. 

But the Wolverine State’s first redistricting cycle with an independent commission drawing the lines added another level of uncertainty. And the current political environment trending toward Republicans, due to President Joe Biden’s mediocre job approval rating, could give the GOP a net gain of a seat or two in Michigan, out of the net gain of five they need nationwide to capture the House majority. 

[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]

Along with a handful of districts that should host competitive general elections, there are some key primaries to watch on Aug. 2, in races rated as Solid Democratic or Solid Republican for the ultimate nominees.  

The newly-drawn 4th District is set to host one of the more complex GOP primaries of the cycle. Rep. Fred Upton is up with television ads, marking the beginning of his intraparty fight against fellow Rep. Bill Huizenga. Upton currently represents 64 percent of the new seat compared to 25 percent by Huizenga, according to Daily Kos Elections. But state Rep. Steve Carra is running and previously garnered Trump’s endorsement when it looked like he would be one-on-one against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump. The seat could become more competitive later in the decade, but the GOP nominee should win in November.

In the 11th District, Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin are clashing in the primary in a seat that Biden would have won with 59 percent. Stevens currently represents more of the new district (45 percent to 25 percent), had more money at the end of the year ($2 million to $1.1 million), and is endorsed by retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who currently represents about one-third of the newly drawn seat. But Levin comes from an iconic political family in Michigan and has strong ties to organized labor.

The new 13th District is open because Lawrence is not seeking reelection. Considering Biden would have received 74 percent there, the consequential battle is for the Democratic nomination. The early attention is on hedge fund manager John Conyers III, son of former Rep. John Conyers, and state Rep. Shri Thanedar, who spent $10.6 million of his own money on a quirky campaign for governor in 2018 (he placed last in the Democratic primary, won by Gretchen Whitmer). Detroit school board member/former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and others are running as well.

3rd District (Peter Meijer, R)

With a newly-drawn competitive district and after voting to impeach Trump in early 2021, the congressman is facing heat from both sides of the aisle. In the primary, Meijer faces former acting assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development John Gibbs (who has Trump’s endorsement), immigration attorney Gabrielle Manolache, and MAGA activist Audra Johnson. None of them have raised much money compared to the personally wealthy Meijer ($1.2 million in the bank on Dec. 31). 

If he wins the primary, Meijer faces a difficult general election in a newly-drawn seat Biden would have won by 8 points. He’d likely face Democrat Hillary Scholten, who he defeated in 2020 by 6 points, but that was in a seat Trump carried by 3 points. If Meijer loses the primary, Republicans would be at even more risk of losing the seat with a nominee that is closer to Trump. Initial rating: Toss-up

7th District (Elissa Slotkin, D)

After knocking off a GOP incumbent in 2018 and surviving a close reelection race in 2020, Slotkin is familiar with competitive contests. She already had a whopping $4.5 million campaign cash at the end of year and has tried to distinguish herself from her more liberal colleagues. And the newly-drawn district is slightly more Democratic than the one she’s won in twice before. But 2022 is looking like a more challenging year. 

Slotkin only represents about half of the newly-drawn district and Republicans are ready to highlight her voting record with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which the former CIA officer didn’t have to defend when she first ran. In the general election, she’s likely to face state Sen. Tom Barrett, a former Army helicopter pilot who made headlines for leaving the military rather than comply with the vaccine mandate. He also currently represents much of territory that is new to Slotkin. 

Barrett is committed to not getting outspent like Slotkin’s last challenger, but he has some ground to make up (he had $254,000 in the bank on Dec. 31). And he’ll have to explain his vote against bringing a $2.5 billion GM battery factory to the new district. But this is a good GOP opportunity against a tough incumbent. Initial rating: Tilt Democratic.

8th District (Dan Kildee, D)

Michigan has sent a Kildee to Congress for nearly 50 years, but that streak is at risk this fall. Dan Kildee, who succeeded his uncle Dale in Congress, faces his toughest race yet in a seat Biden would have won by just 2 points. The congressman is also likely to face a credible GOP challenger in Paul Junge, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official and Fox47 news anchor who lost a close race to Slotkin in 2020.

Republicans consider this a top takeover opportunity in the country and are ready to highlight Kildee’s decade-long voting record, which he compiled representing a more Democratic district. This is the type of race Republicans should be winning if the cycle is as good as it looks on paper. Initial rating: Tilt Democratic.

10th District (Open; Andy Levin, D)

By running for reelection in the neighboring 11th District, Levin leaves this open seat behind. The 11th is more Democratic and helps him avoid being a GOP target, but it also pits him against Stevens in the primary. 

Trump would have won the newly-drawn 10th with 50 percent, making it a primary takeover opportunity for Republicans. After two consecutive losses running for the U.S. Senate, John James might have finally found his way to Washington. He’s the GOP frontrunner. Democrats have two months to find a top contender. Macomb County Circuit Judge Carl Marlinga (who lost a 2002 race to Republican Candice S. Miller and a 2010 race for the state Senate) and former state Sen. Steve Bieda are potential candidates, although Marlinga has a legal hurdle to clear first. Initial rating: Tilt Republican.

Races rated Solid Republican

Races rated Solid Democratic

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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