Michigan voters face the most spirited congressional primary season in decades. (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images)
Michigan voters are facing the most spirited congressional primary season in decades. Four congressmen decided not to seek re-election to their seats, setting up competitive contests on both sides of the ballot.
In evaluating the candidates, The Detroit News looked for intelligence, expertise and a commitment to pragmatic governing. Our hope is the reformed Michigan congressional delegation will help bridge the partisan divide, and will put the needs of state citizens ahead of ideology and political alignment.
Here are the candidates we believe are best equipped to meet that challenge in the contested races on the Aug. 5 primary ballot:
14th District (Detroit, parts of Oakland County, Grosse Pointes): Perhaps the most intense primary is the one for the seat held by Rep. Gary Peters, who is stepping down to run for the U.S. Senate. Four candidates are in the Democratic primary, including Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, former Congressman Hansen Clarke and school teacher Burgess Foster. State Rep. Rudy Hobbs of Southfield gets our endorsement. Hobbs, if elected in November, would add youth to a congressional delegation that still skews older. Heíd also be a passionate representative for his district, including for Detroit. Hobbs seems to be a common-sense lawmaker, truly committed to working toward solutions. He places public safety, education and jobs at the top of his priority list, reflecting the needs of the district. The Democratic nominee will face Republican Christina Conyers, who is unopposed.
13th District (Detroit, parts of western Wayne County and Downriver): Rep. John Conyers has had a long and storied career as a congressman. But time has caught up with him and he is no longer an effective representative for his district. The Rev. Horace Sheffield is opposing Conyers and offers constituents the better choice. Sheffield would renew the districtís voice in Washington. Sheffield is well known in Detroit as a pastor and longtime political and community activist. Sheffield understands that the district needs more than handouts from Washington; it needs policies that encourage private investment and job creation, and he promises to work toward those goals. He says he will focus on moving citizens who are on public assistance into productive and self-sustaining work. The Democratic nominee will face Republican Jeff Gorman of Garden City, who is unopposed.
11th District (Oakland County, western Wayne): Rep. Kerry Bentivolio is the accidental congressman, having been elected in 2012 when former Rep. Thad McCotter was knocked off the ballot, leaving Bentivolio as the only choice on the Republican side in this GOP-leaning district. Bentivolio has never been the right fit for the district. Dave Trott is, and should be nominated. Trott, a businessman and attorney, runs several successful companies, including one that services mortgages. Heís been unfairly tagged for processing foreclosures. But the true picture of his career is one that has created jobs and helped thousands of Metro Detroiters obtain homes. He is bright, forceful and committed to public service, and appears destined to become a leader in Congress, if elected. Three Democrats are competing as well, including Nancy Skinner and Dr. Anil Kumar. Bobby McKenzie has fresh ideas and is the most interesting Democratic choice, and gets our endorsement in the primary.
8th District (Oakland, Livingston, Ingham counties): The unexpected retirement of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, leaves this seat open. Republicans Mike Bishop and Tom McMillan are competing. Both are veterans of the state Legislature, with McMillin currently serving. Mike Bishop is the better choice. As majority leader of the state Senate during the Granholm years, Bishop was the sole anchor that kept Michigan from being dragged even deeper into the swamp of union-dictated policies that nearly ruined the state. He forged an effective working relationship with the Democratic House leader and together they were able to pass legislation even in a period of bitter partisan division. Bishop now is part owner of a small Oakland County business, and has seen the damaging impact of federal regulations, including the health care overhaul. Four Democrats are on the primary ballot, including Susan Grettenberger, a professor, Ken Darga, an economist and Jeffrey Hank, an attorney. The most impressive is Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing, who has held his office since 2000 and runs a good ship.
12th District (Western Wayne, Downriver, Washtenaw County): Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, is ending his historic tenure in Congress, opening up that seat. Two Democrats are contending, including attorney Raymond Mullins and the congressmanís wife, Deborah Dingell. Debbie Dingell is the better choice. The former General Motors executive knows her way around Washington and will hit the ground as an effective representative for her district. Of the two Republicans, Terry Bowman and Stephen Farkas, conservative union activist Terry Bowman is the better primary choice.
In other contested primaries across the state, we pick Rep. Justin Amash in western Michiganís 3rd District over his fellow Republican Brian Ellis. Amash is a maverick, but there is room in Congress for a maverick who still works within the boundaries of the institution. Dan Benishek faces a tea party challenger in the 1st District, which is ironic since he was elected in the tea party surge of 2010; Dan Benishek should be the nominee. In the 4th District seat left vacant by Dave Campís retirement, state Sen. John Moolenaar is our choice among the Republicans.