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Epstein might leave Senate race to run for U.S. House

Melissa Nann Burke

Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein is considering abandoning the race for U.S. Senate to run instead for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Trott.

In an email sent to supporters Wednesday, Epstein said she had been “inundated” in recent days with requests that she consider running for Trott’s seat in the 11th District “to ensure that we have the strongest possible candidate in this race.”

“This congressional seat opening means that Republicans will have a tough fight if we want to keep it in conservative hands,” wrote Epstein, who co-chaired President Donald Trump's Michigan campaign.

“I am going to spend a very short time seriously considering this option. I will make a formal announcement of my decision after discussing this further with my family and loyal supporters.”

Trott, a Birmingham attorney in his second term, announced Monday that he won't run for reelection in 2018. He plans to return to the private sector.

In May, Epstein, 35, of Bloomfield Hills was the the first GOP candidate to announce a challenge to Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is running for a fourth term next year.

She faces former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. of Laingsburg in the GOP primary. African-American veteran and businessman John James of Farmington Hills is exploring a run, while Clarkston’s Kid Rock and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph been considering Senate candidacies as well.

In the email to supporters, Epstein said her fundraising, polling and endorsements so far in the Senate race have “exceeded all hopes and expectations” and that she is on track to win the primary, with a “strong chance” of unseating Stabenow in the general election.

Other Republicans who have expressed early interest in the House seat include state Sens. Marty Knollenberg of Troy and Mike Kowall of White Lake, state Reps. Laura Cox of Livonia and Klint Kesto of Commerce Township, and former state Reps. Rocky Raczkowski pf Troy and Kurt Heise, the current supervisor in Plymouth Township.

“I think it’s wide open,” said Jeff Sakwa, an Oakland County political insider and former vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

“Someone’s going to get to work really quickly here,” he added.

“The question is, what’s Dave going to do, endorse anybody or not endorse anybody? Is he going to help?”

Epstein is a “hard worker, no doubt,” Sakwa said, but he noted the potential field for the GOP nomination includes several candidates with a track record of winning elections.

Epstein, on the other hand, has not held elected office. She has positioned herself as the “outsider” in the Senate race, touting her record of support of Trump and his policies.

Epstein co-owns her family's business in Southfield, Vesco Oil Corp., a distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants, where she oversees day-to-day affairs of the company alongside her sister and a team of managers.

In her email to supporters, Epstein said it’s important that that Republicans nominate a candidate capable of raising enough money to fight of “all that the Democrats will throw at this race,” specifically referring to Democratic challenger Haley Stevens who raised more than $320,000 in her first quarter.

“Recent elections have shown that our strongest candidates are those who come from outside of politics – from within the business world – rather than from Lansing,” she wrote.


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Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed