Lansing — Democrat Andy Levin wants to succeed his father in Congress but will face primary competition from state Sen. Steve Bieda and others.
Levin and Bieda each launched campaigns Wednesday for the seat long held by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, who announced Saturday he will not seek re-election in 2018. The district includes southern Macomb and southeast Oakland counties.
Andy Levin, 57, is a former head of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. The Bloomfield Township resident founded two clean energy companies, including Lean and Green Michigan.
Bieda is a two-term state senator from Warren who also served in the House. The 56-year-old previously worked as director of labor relations for the City of Warren.
“After 60 years of Republican divide-and-conquer politics and 40 years of trickle-down economics where wealth has in fact rushed to the top, it is time to unite around policies that raise living standards for working people,” Levin said in his campaign announcement.
Bieda praised Levin’s work in Congress and touted his own record in the state Legislature, where he has developed a reputation for working across the aisle.
“Working families in the 9th Congressional District need leadership that is proven, steady and strong. As your congressman, I pledge to never stop fighting for good jobs for the middle class, to protect our Great Lakes and to hold elected officials to the highest ethical standards,” Bieda said in a statement.
Other Democrats who could jump into the primary include Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner of Huntington Woods and businessman Kevin Howley of Huntington Woods.
Martin Brook, a labor and employment law attorney from Bloomfield Township, announced his candidacy on Saturday. He previously served as a school board member in Bloomfield Hills.
The 9th Congressional District is considered a relatively safe seat for Democrats, although Republicans are hoping to compete. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last year won the district by eight percentage points over GOP President Donald Trump.
Republican businesswoman Candius Stearns of Sterling Heights is running for the seat and was recently endorsed by U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden.
Rep. Levin, 86, plans to join the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the end of his term, ending a congressional reign that began in 1983.
Andy Levin, who briefly explored a gubernatorial run this fall, last ran for office in 2006, when he lost a bid for state Senate by 720 votes.
The congressional race quickly turned combative when a consultant for Bieda’s campaign questioned a claim by former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, who praised Levin for creating the No Worker Left Behind program when he worked in state government, calling it “the largest job-retraining program in the country.”
The claim is “demonstrably false,” said Brian Stone. He pointed to the Veterans Administration’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service program, as well as the Department of Health & Human Services’ programs for welfare recipients.
Levin defended the state program and blasted the “attack dog email” from the Bieda campaign as showing “an almost complete lack of understanding of how the U.S. workforce system operates.”
Funding for the programs flows from the federal government but is implemented by states. The No Worker Left Behind program pooled money from many federal programs and put a much higher percentage of it than other states into education and training opportunities “that really change workers’ lives,” Levin said.
Bieda has sponsored 154 bills in the state Legislature, according to his campaign, including many that have been signed into law. He spearheaded a new law to financially compensate individuals wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Bieda has deep ties to Macomb County, which is home to roughly two-thirds of the voters in the 9th Congressional District. He currently represents roughly a third of the district’s population in the state Senate, according to his campaign.
But experts say Levin enters the race as a leading candidate who could prove a force if his father backs him and provides access to established fundraising channels.
But Bieda and Meisner are both experienced campaigners capable of competing, Democratic consultant Howard Edelson said Monday. Other potential candidates are likely eying the seat as well.