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Lansing — Former U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio is forming an exploratory committee to run for the congressional seat he lost in 2014.

The Milford Republican is joining an increasingly large field looking to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, who challenged and beat Bentivolio in a contentious 11th District GOP primary three years ago.

“We need people in Congress who aren’t owned by special interests and who have the courage to rock the boat on behalf of the people,” Bentivolio, 66, said in a statement. “We need someone who is a principled conservative and has the record to prove it.”

A former teacher, Army veteran and reindeer farmer, Bentivolio was a political outsider who served one two-year term after winning a seat that was left vacant when former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to collect enough signatures to make the August 2012 ballot.

Bentivolio lost a long-shot write-in campaign in the 2014 general election after Trott significantly outspent him and trounced him in the primary, 66 percent to 34 percent. He ran again as an independent in 2016 but garnered less than 5 percent of the vote.

Four Republicans already are running for the 11th Congressional District seat, including former state House majority floor leader Rocky Raczkowski. Businesswoman Lena Epstein, Plymouth Township supervisor Kurt Heise and state Rep. Klint Kesto, State Sen. Mike Kowall and state Rep. Laura Cox are also considering bids.

On the Democratic side, candidates include Haley Stevens, former chief of staff to Obama’s Auto Task Force, and Fayrouz Saad, Detroit’s former director of immigration affairs. Birmingham attorney and entrepreneur Dan Haberman joined the race earlier this month.

“The election of President Trump shows that in the fight between the people and the swamp, the people are winning,” Bentivolio said in a statement. “But one election won’t change things.”

Michigan’s 2018 primary Aug. 7 still is more than nine months away. The general election will follow in November.

joosting@detroitnews.com

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