August 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Challenger Dave Trott defeats U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio

Dave Trott gives his victory speech
Dave Trott gives his victory speech: GOP candidate for Michigan's 11th District DaveTrott thanks his family and friends after upsetting incumbent Kerry Bentivolio

Detroit— Birmingham attorney Dave Trott trounced U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio Tuesday night in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Republican primary.

Trott carried 66 percent of the vote over Bentivolio’s 34 percent, with all precincts reporting in the 11th Congressional District, which encompasses southern Oakland County and western Wayne County.

In Oakland County, Trott had nearly twice as many votes as Bentivolio, according to unofficial results from the Oakland County clerk’s office.

In the Democratic primary, ex-U.S. State Department counter-terrorism staffer Bobby McKenzie beat urologist Anil Kumar 34 percent to 33 percent, with ex-talk show host Nancy Skinner and political activist Bill Roberts trailing far behind.

With all precincts reporting, McKenzie had a 471-vote edge over Kumar.

The urologist could request a recount if he thinks the vote tallies are incorrect because of fraud or mistake, according to state law.

Trott, who made a fortune in real estate and foreclosure law and related businesses, poured $2.4 million of his own money into the race and raised another $1 million to air a barrage of television ads. Bentivolio of Milford raised about $515,000 during the entire two-year cycle, spending most of it on campaign staff and operational expenses.

Bentivolio delivered a concession speech at about 9:35 p.m. Tuesday evening before supporters gathered at the George’s Senate coney island restaurant in Northville. He did not call Trott to concede the race, spokesman Matt Chisholm said.

Trott, a longtime Republican donor, and others dubbed Bentivolio an “accidental congressman” who was out of touch with the district and inaccessible to constituents during his 19 months in office.

Elected Republican Party leaders largely backed Trott’s bid to unseat Bentivolio, who won the seat in 2012 after then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to qualify for the August primary ballot because of an insufficient number of valid voter signatures.

Bentivolio, who was a Milford reindeer rancher and Santa Claus actor before being elected to Congress, has routinely chided Trott as part of the Republican Party establishment’s “elite” club of well-heeled special interests.

“Two years ago I found myself in the unlikeliest of positions, and I have done my best to serve the people of Michigan’s 11th District rather than the moneyed interests,” Bentivolio said in a prepared speech.

Bentivolio accused the Michigan Republican Party of embracing “money over ideas and cronyism over principles” and said the GOP has to change “whether they like it or not,” according to excerpts of the prepared speech.

“They will no longer be allowed to have our vote simply because we dislike the Democrats more,” Bentivolio said in the speech.

Despite his indignation about the establishment, Bentivolio’s re-election campaign presence was virtually nonexistent this summer, as he had little money and debts to repay to a former campaign manager from 2012.

Bentivolio also said he couldn’t be in the district campaigning for much of July because the U.S. House of Representatives remained in session. Last Thursday, his congressional office staged a sparsely attended public forum in Livonia on immigration border control issues, but Bentivolio had to appear via an Internet video broadcast because he was stuck in Washington.

Democrats target Trott

Even with the Democratic primary’s outcome uncertain, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to frame the general election race late Tuesday.

“Michigan Republicans said goodbye to Santa Claus impersonator Kerry Bentivolio and nominated a Scrooge in millionaire foreclosure baron David Trott, who profited from thousands of foreclosures on Michigan families,” DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward said in a statement.

The 11th District’s affluent communities in western Wayne County and southern and central Oakland County lean Republican.

“To me it’s a shame that the party is wasting so much time, effort and money fighting itself in safe districts,” said Tom Llewellyn, 65, of Milford, who volunteered Tuesday for Bentivolio at the polls.

Robin Smith, 63, of Birmingham, stood at a polling precinct in her hometown Tuesday, handing out literature about Trott, who owns a real estate law firm and related businesses.

“I think he’s a really smart guy,” Smith said. “If anyone can understand these issues and turn things around, I’d say he’s the man.”
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Birmingham attorney David Trott gives his victory speech at the Troy Marriott Tuesday. / Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, talks to supporters at Milford Ice ... (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)