Who’s running for Congress in Michigan? Here’s what we know
With no fewer than three open seats in the U.S. House and Republicans thinking 2018 could finally be the year they knock off Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the number of people running for Congress next year is quickly growing.
And it’s most likely going to get even larger. Democrats, convinced the 2016 election of President Donald Trump will result in a backlash, are lining up to run in a couple of Republican-leaning districts, the 6th and 11th. Meanwhile, with U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, resigning amid sexual harassment accusations from a seat he held for 53 years, expect even more Dems — possibly including his son, John Conyers III — to flood into the 13th District race.
These are the candidates we know of who are running for Michigan’s seats in Congress next year:
Name: Debbie Stabenow (incumbent)
Background: Stabenow has been a U.S. senator since 2000 and is running for her fourth six-year term. She is among her party’s top leaders in the Senate and the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee. Before running for the Senate, she was a member of the U.S. House, a state legislator and an Ingham County commissioner. While in office, Stabenow has been an advocate for protecting the Great Lakes and stopping the spread of Asian carp, punishing businesses that move jobs overseas and cracking down on China and other countries believed to be manipulating trade to keep out competition.
Name: Bob Carr
Background: A historic preservationist with Up North roots in Traverse City and Mackinac Island, Carr is a onetime Republican nominee in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, having lost to former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, in 1996. He is calling for improvements to transportation and infrastructure and encouraging businesses to hire more to improve the economy, among other positions.
Name: John James
Background: An Iraq War veteran and helicopter pilot, James of Farmington Hills is president of James Group International, based in Detroit, which provides supply chain management services. He is touting himself as a “pro-business conservative” who favors abortion restrictions and promises to support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Name: Sandy Pensler
Background: An economist and investment fund founder, Pensler of Grosse Pointe is calling for fixing the federal tax code and streamlining regulations to improve job growth; reforming safety net spending for poor people while protecting seniors, and renegotiating trade deals. A former candidate who in the 1990s ran in support of abortion rights, Pensler says he is now for abortion restrictions.
Name: John Tenny
Background: An automotive test technician, Tenny, who lives in Roseville is making his first bid for political office. In comments to the Free Press, he said he “cannot sit idly by and do nothing” while the middle-class is turned into what he considers akin to a “slave-class.” On his website, he says he is against mandatory health insurance and supports broad tax cuts.
Name: Marcia Squier
Background: An equipment manager for an exercise company for children who also teaches exercise classes, Squier ran as the Green Party candidate against U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, in 2016, taking just over 1% of the vote. In an email, she said she is running to legalize marijuana at the federal level, promote renewable energy, provide health care for all and cut spending for the military, judiciary and law enforcement.
Website: No website, but her Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/MarciaSquier4Senate/
Name: Jack Bergman (incumbent)
Background: A former Marine general, pilot and businessman, Bergman, who has a home in Watersmeet on the Upper Peninsula, was the surprise winner of the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by then-Rep. Dan Benishek and went on to beat former state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson in the general. Bergman has pushed for lower taxes, a stronger national defense and protections for gun owners, including allowing gun carry permits to be used across state lines.
Name: Dwight Brady
Background: A media professor in the Department of Communication and Performance Studies at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Brady is a political newcomer, touting his Up North roots and saying he would fight against government moves to help corporations while proposing cuts to Great Lakes funding and home heating assistance.
Name: Matthew Morgan
Background: A retired Marine Corps officer and Iraq War veteran, Morgan of Traverse City is a political newcomer. He is pushing for additional government commitments to support education, ensure health care availability to all Americans and improving crucial infrastructure.
Name: Bill Huizenga (incumbent)
Background: Having replaced former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra in 2011, Huizenga of Zeeland is in his fourth two-year term and is a subcommittee chairman on the House Financial Services Committee. He has been a staunch advocate for reducing government spending and cutting burdensome regulations while also pushing for Great Lakes protections, including from invasive Asian carp.
Name: Rob Davidson
Background: An emergency room physician, Davidson is a member of the Spring Lake School Board and says he is running to promote policies that would provide quality, comprehensive health care for all Americans. He is also calling for a pathway for law-abiding immigrants, documented and undocumented, to receive legal status and for children brought to the U.S. as undocumented minors to be protected.
Name: Nick Schiller
Background: Schiller is a lab technician and graduate of Grand Valley State University who enters his first foray into politics having risen from a broken family and becoming a parent to his nephew after his sister died of a drug overdose in 2015. He is running to push government to do more to address the opioid problem and calling on Congress to address income inequality.
Name: Justin Amash (incumbent)
Background: A member of Congress since 2011, Amash of Cascade Charter Township has established himself as a Republican renegade among the state’s delegation. Its most libertarian member, he has broken with President Donald Trump on occasions, including health care reform proposed in the House, and is widely seen as willing to break with his party, be it on spending cuts he believes do not go far enough or government surveillance that he believes should be curtailed.
Name: Matt Hall
Background: A west Michigan chairman of President Donald Trump’s succesful 2016 campaign, Hall quietly in January filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission creating a campaign committee to run again Amash, who in 2017 won the ire of the White House for refusing to back an early version of health care reform. Hall served several years as a west Michigan constituent relations liaison for state Attorney General Bill Schuette but the Free Press hasn’t been able to locate a campaign website discussing his views.
Name: Cathy Albro
Background: A political newcomer from Middleville, Albro, a former educator and small business owner, is running on a platform of universal health care, improved educational opportunities and a more inclusive society.
Name: The Rev. W. Fred Wooden
Background: A minister at the nondenominational Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, Wooden has served on local boards and panels since moving to Michigan in 2005. He says he is running to make government more transparent and accountable and to push for better wages, universal health care and more fair immigration laws.
Name: John Moolenaar (incumbent)
Background: A congressman since 2015, Moolenaar of Midland is a former Dow Chemical chemist and state legislator and is Michigan’s only member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He is a staunch conservative, believing that government spending must be cut, taxes reformed and the Affordable Care Act repealed. He has pushed for continuation of Great Lakes funding and protecting local waters from invasive Asian carp.
Name: Mark Bignell
Background: An employee of a trucking firm out of Greenville and formerly homeless, Bignell is making his first entry into politics, calling himself a progressive Democrat and saying he wants to ease the transition to single-payer health coverage, increase the minimum wage and create new means of protecting farms and rural businesses.
Name: Dion Adams
Background: A retired businessman in Big Rapids and vice chair of the Mecosta County Democrats, Adams is pushing for investment in sustainable practices and environmental protections, single-payer health care, increased funding for schools and a higher minimum wage.
Name: Dan Kildee (incumbent)
Background: A member of Congress since 2013, Kildee is a proud native of Flint — he lives in neighboring Flint Township — and a member of the House Financial Services Committee. A key voice in Congress during the Flint water crisis, he has become one of the most recognizable Democrats from Michigan on the national scene and remains a strong voice for Great Lakes protections, urban renewal and job growth.
Name: Fred Upton (incumbent)
Background: Poised to become the dean of the state’s delegation to Congress if he wins in 2018, Upton of St. Joseph has been representing southwestern Michigan since 1987 and had been considering a run for U.S. Senate, which he abandoned. A former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton has a long history as a Republican willing to work with Democrats on issues including medical research, pipeline safety, Great Lakes protections and more. A fiscal conservative, he has supported tax reform and curtailing regulations while at the same time pushed for government oversight into corporate and other abuses.
Name: David Benac
Background: A history professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Benac was raised in Alpena and was a delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. He supports expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, protecting the environment and women’s reproductive rights, and improving the health care system for veterans.
Name: Paul Clements
Background: Having lost to Upton in the last two elections, Clements, an economic development professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, is back for a third try. He supports Medicare-for-all health care and a higher minimum wage, as well as strengthening Social Security and improving environmental protections.
Name: Rich Eichholz
Background: A scientist and businessman involved in bioscience, pharmaceutical and other fields, Eichholz is running to stop what he sees as a flow of people leaving southwest Michigan for other opportunities. He says he wants to revitalize the business climate in an environmentally friendly way and expand job growth without providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
Name: George Franklin
Background: The former longtime head of government relations at Kellogg in Battle Creek, Franklin enters the race as a well-known figure in political circles. He is calling for a major investment in infrastructure as well as renegotiating trade deals, better access to health care, and reproductive freedom for women.
Name: Eponine Garrod
Background: Calling herself “a young female scientist and progressive Democrat” on her website, Garrod says she hopes to end rapid climate change by switching to “100% renewable energies,” reducing corporate influence over government and fighting to protect women’s rights and safety from abuse.
Name: Matt Longjohn
Background: A doctor and former health officer for the YMCA, Longjohn of Portage touts his medical experience and says he will fight for access to affordable health care, a safe environment and educational improvements. He says tax breaks for the wealthy have proven a failure, resulting in widening income inequalities.
Name: Tim Walberg (incumbent)
Background: Representing portions of south Michigan in 2007-09 and again since 2011, Walberg of Tipton is a subcommittee chairman on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a reliably conservative vote, calling for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, stronger enforcement of border security and simplifying and reducing federal taxes on corporations and individuals.
Name: Gretchen Driskell
Background: A former mayor of Saline and state representative, Driskell lost as the Democratic nominee against Walberg in 2016. She is critical of what she calls Walberg’s support of past trade deals, saying they have cost Michigan jobs, as well as his backing of health care reform that failed to pass but, if it had, could have resulted in less access to health care and higher premiums for some.
Name: Steven Friday
Background: On his campaign website, Friday says he has done social work and community organizing among other jobs and is an Air Force veteran. Among his top issues are promoting health care for all, addressing income inequality and reforming the criminal justice system to remove what he calls “prejudicial sentencing of people of color and re-sentencing of those who have already been the victim of bias in sentencing.”
Name: Mike Bishop (incumbent)
Background: A former majority leader of the Michigan Senate, Bishop of Rochester has been in Congress since 2015 and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-setting panel in the U.S. House. Bishop has been a solidly conservative vote, backing tax reform, reduced regulations and the proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act. He has also pressed for compensation for Michigan families affected by the 2010 meningitis outbreak.
Name: Elissa Slotkin
Background: Before returning home to Holly, Slotkin worked for years in the intelligence community, serving in Iraq as a CIA analyst and spending time in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department and the Defense Department under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, being nominated assistant secretary of defense by Obama. She has called for improvements to the health care system, as well as to infrastructure, and wants more educational and job opportunities.
Name: Chris Smith
Background: A public policy and law professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, Smith specializes in American government and criminal justice. Raised in a union household, he remains a strong advocate of labor unions in providing financial security and supports a single-payer health care plan, investments for infrastructure and battling climate change. He also argues that tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people have not resulted in more jobs or better wages and that the minimum wage should be increased.
9TH DISTRICT (open)
Name: Steve Bieda
Background: First elected a state representative in 2002, Bieda of Warren moved on to the state Senate in 2010, being elected again in 2014. He enters this race — for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, since 1983 — as one of the favorites, touting his legislative experience and success in proposing measures to crack down on corrupt political practices, strengthen unions and protect the environment.
Name: Martin Brook
Background: Brook of Bloomfield Township is a labor and employment law attorney who has served on the Bloomfield Hills School Board. He said he is committed to increasing investment in infrastructure, higher wages, job creation and fighting “attacks on our public education, and the diminished health care and retirement options that threaten our middle class.”
Name: Andy Levin
Background: The director of worker training under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and a longtime labor organizer, Levin, who founded a clean energy investment business, is running to replace his father in Congress and continue a string of having at least one Levin in Michigan’s delegation since 1979 when his uncle, Carl, joined the Senate. Andy Levin says he will concentrate on restoring prosperity to the middle class, fighting to save the planet from climate change and pushing for universal health care.
Name: Ellen Lipton
Background: A former state representative and patent attorney from Huntington Woods, Lipton framed her bid for the seat as being not only fueled by a desire to challenge what she callled President Donald Trump’s “corporate agenda” but also as a challenge to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a former Michigan school reform advocate who Lipton says she has battled before on behalf of public education.
Name: Candius Stearns
Background: A former benefits manager and small businesswoman, Stearns is running for the open seat after having held positions with the Macomb County Republican Party. She says she would put her experience to work to lower health care costs and improve quality of care. She is also pushing to increase apprenticeship and technical training programs and reduce government spending.
Name: Paul Mitchell (incumbent)
Background: Elected to replace former U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, in 2016, Mitchell of Dryden came to Congress having backed conservative causes after having helped create a system of private medical education centers. He has remained a reliably conservative vote for Republican leadership during his first term and is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as the House Oversight and the Education and the Workforce committees.
11TH DISTRICT (open)
Name: Kerry Bentivolio
Background: A former educator and Army National guardsman, Bentivolio held this seat in 2013-14 when former Rep. Thad McCotter abruptly stepped down amid a campaign scandal and no other Republican was on the ballot. Bentivolio was beaten in 2014 by Dave Trott of Birmingham — who went on to hold the seat for two terms and has now decided to leave at the end of this term — opening the door, Bentivolio hopes, for his return. In 2012, he won with tea party support which he will likely try to tap into again.
Name: Kristine Bonds
Background: A small businesswoman and daughter of Detroit broadcaster Bill Bonds, Bonds, of West Bloomfield, is running to raise funds to fight opioid addiction, saying it has claimed two close family members. She says she is also running to maintain prosperity in the region and is a proven job created.
Name: Lena Epstein
Background: The third-generation co-owner of a Southfield-based automotive and industrial lubricants business, Epstein was a co-chair of President Donald Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Michigan and is running to replace U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, who is stepping down. She is running on a platform of curtailing government spending, cutting taxes and increasing jobs as well as calling for increased U.S. support for Israel.
Name: Kurt Heise
Background: Elected a Plymouth Township supervisor in 2016, Heise is a former director of the Wayne County Department of Environment and was a state representative from 2011-16. In his announcement, Heise touted his experience in pushing for criminal justice reform and clean water policies as well as a conservative record of fixing problems across government.
Name: Klint Kesto
Background: A Commerce Township Republican first elected a state representative in 2012, Kesto says he is running to bring “conservative change to Congress.” He’s also the first Chaldean to be elected to the state House of Representatives. On his Facebook page, Kesto says he’s a leader in fighting the opioid epidemic and he has fought for more efficient and effective government.
Name: A Rocky Raczkowski
Background: A former state representative and retired Army Reserves lieutenant colonel, Raczkowski of Troy runs an automotive and defense logistics company. In 2010, he ran a close, though unsuccessful, campaign to beat then-U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, now a U.S. senator. Raczkowski says he supports a conservative approach to improving the economy and wants to limit the size of government.
Name: Tim Greimel
Background: An attorney and former Oakland County commissioner, Greimel of Auburn Hills is in his third term as a state representative. A former school board member, he is committed to improving education, seeing it as the key to economic opportunity and upward mobility. In the state Legislature, he pushed to raise the minimum wage and was part of the coalition that helped Detroit move through bankruptcy reorganization.
Name: Suneel Gupta
Background: An entrepreneur who grew up in Novi, Gupta — the brother of CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta — was formerly a vice president for Groupon and co-founded a company to use technology to reduce medical costs. He says he is running to promote “Better Jobs, Better Wages and Better Skills” for Michiganders.
Name: Dan Haberman
Background: A Birmingham lawyer and entrepreneur, Haberman is a former general counsel to his late brother Jeremy’s live music venue, the Magic Bag, and helped to lead a movement to ban smoking in most public establishments in Michigan. In a campaign video, he said he believed it was time to stand up against forces of hate and has said Michigan needs “strong, fact-based leaders.”
Name: Haley Stevens
Background: A former chief of staff for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Auto Task Force when it provided billions to General Motors and Chrysler through bankruptcy restructuring, Stevens of Rochester Hills is touting her experience having led programs for workforce development and digital manufacturing. She wants to work on bringing high-tech jobs to the state.
Name: Fayrouz Saad
Background: A former staffer in the Department of Homeland Security who helped coordinate the response to the gulf coast oil spill in 2010, Fayrouz of Northville served as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s director of immigrant affairs. Saying she is a proud progressive, Saad says she is running for Congress to ensure that through hard work and determination anyone can achieve the American dream.
Name: Debbie Dingell (incumbent)
Background: Winning the seat after her husband, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, stepped down in 2015 after nearly six decades in Congress, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn is one of the most visible members of the state’s congressional delegation, pushing for trade deals to help Michigan workers, promoting the state’s auto industry and environmental resources, and urging protections for senior citizens.
Name: Jeff Jones
Background: Jones, of Taylor, has a background in sales and marketing and says he is running to promote education reform, health care reform and changes to U.S. immigration policy. He is also pushing for what he calls a constitutional awakening, saying politicians and others have manipulated and ignored its tenets.
Green Party (1)
Name: Steve Young
Background: According to his Facebook page and other websites, Young lives in Dearborn and is using a GoFundMe appeal to try to raise funds for his campaign. His campaign website is largely empty but on his Facebook page he says he supports lowering education costs, increasing taxes on wealthier Americans and creating manufacturing and skilled labor jobs.
13TH DISTRICT (open)
Name: Ian Conyers
Background: Elected to the state Senate in a special election in 2016, Ian Conyers — as well as others who have or will file to run for this seat — will likely be running in two elections: to serve out what will by then be the two months remaining of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ current term as well as for the next full term, beginning in 2019. The primary and general elections for both terms are the same — Aug. 7 and Nov. 6. John Conyers abruptly resigned on Dec. 5 after sexual harassment accusations mounted against him. As for Ian Conyers, he is the elder Conyers’ great-nephew, and, if he is the only Conyers to get into the race, he may enjoy considerable name recognition. While his campaign is still in its infancy, Ian Conyers has touted in the past his expertise with redevelopment projects and helping small and disadvantaged businesses and that he wants to help provide solutions to southeastern Michigan.
Name: John Conyers III
Background: Endorsed by his father as he resigned Dec. 5, it was not immediately clear that John Conyers III would even be running in the race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit. But on Jan. 24, the younger Conyers filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission indicating his plans to run. However, he has been largely out of the public view since his father’s resignation and made no immediate public announcement regarding his campaign or why he’s running.
Name: Michael Gilmore
Background: A former Democratic organizer and staffer for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Gilmore is running on a platform of creating tuition-free colleges, boosting higher-wage jobs in metro Detroit, creating tax incentives for manufacturers to locate in economically depressed areas, closing loopholes for wealthy people and reforming the criminal justice system.
Name: Brenda Jones
Background: The president of Detroit City Council, Jones announced her candidacy for the seat resigned by Conyers on Jan. 26, according to the Associated Press. Her announcement came just days after both state Sen Ian Conyers and John Conyers III made bids for the seat. First elected to City Council in 2005, Jones has been its president since 2014,
Name: Rashida Tlaib
Background: A public interest lawyer and former three-term state representative, Tlaib made a name for herself in southwest Detroit taking on corporate interests from the Moroun family to a Koch family-business storing coal ash along the Detroit River. The first Muslim-American woman to be elected to the state Legislature, she is seeking to repeat the achievement in Congress.
Name: Coleman Young II
Background: The son of an iconic Detroit mayor — and raised with a different name by his mother before returning to Detroit and adopting his father’s name — Young has been a state representative and senator for Detroit and its surrounding areas since 2007. This year, he lost a Democratic primary challenge to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. His campaign manager, Adolph Mongo, says Young has been a champion of social justice and civil rights and had been approached to run for Conyers’ vacant seat.
Name: Brenda Lawrence (incumbent)
Background: A former mayor of Southfield, Lawrence has been a member of Congress since 2015 and serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This year, she helped introduce legislation calling for congressional employees to be trained to prevent sexual harassment.