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McClain beats Hernandez in 10th District GOP primary

Keith Laing Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Businesswoman Lisa McClain, a first-time candidate from Bruce Township, has defeated state Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron in the GOP primary to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell in Michigan's 10th Congressional District.

Hernandez, chairman of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, congratulated McClain on Wednesday morning. With the wide majority of results in, McClain had a more than 6,000-vote lead over Hernandez. Former Selfridge Air National Guard Base commander Doug Slocum was in third place.

McClain appeared to have won four of the six counties in the 10th District, which includes a northern portion of Macomb County and reaches into the Thumb. As of 9:43 a.m., she had about 42% of the vote. Hernandez got about 36%.

On the Democratic side, Kimberly Bizon of Lexington, who ran in 2018, was leading Kelly Noland of Chesterfield Township by 54% to 46.%.

Lisa McClain

McClain got into the race after her daughter dared her to do something about the problems in Washington, D.C. McClain, senior vice president at Hantz Group, has emphasized her business experience and said she's "not a politician," arguing she is "not beholden to anyone."

McClain spent 11 years working within American Express before she and a group of other employees split off to start Hantz Financial, a financial advising firm based in Southfield.

McClain has been endorsed by state Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who is running for Macomb County prosecutor. Lucido says McClain will put a priority on scrutinizing legislation to find out how it affects small businesses.

The 54-year-old businesswoman's unexpected foray into politics sparked Michigan's most expensive congressional primary of the year as she and two other major candidates wage a battle over the airwaves.

Hernandez, 37, had won the backing of the U.S. Club for Growth Action, which spent $1.5 million supporting him or opposing McClain. He also was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mitchell, who said he decided to back Hernandez after seeing the "tactics" of McClain's supporters. They levied attacks that were "misrepresentations at best and outright lies at worse," Mitchell said.

Shane Hernandez

If he had been elected, Hernandez would have been Michigan's first Hispanic American U.S. House member, according to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hernandez, who previously worked as the vice president for an architecture firm, said he has the voting record to back up his conservative positions.

Slocum, who has been endorsed by former Gov. Rick Snyder, is a career fighter pilot who has never run for public office. He said he has taken pride in running a positive campaign and not spending any money on negative attack campaign commercials.'

ELECTION RESULTS: Follow along here as they come in

Groups acting outside of the candidates' campaigns have already poured more than $2 million into the race, according to federal disclosures. Much of the money has been spent on negative television and radio ads.

McClain's campaign has raised more than $1.7 million. Of the total, $1.4 million has come from McClain herself and about $124,000 has come from donors that listed Hantz Financial, Hantz Financial Group or Hantz Group as their employer, according to campaign finance disclosures.

In addition, a super political action committee called the U.S. Future Fund — which can raise unlimited amounts of money from individual donors but is supposed to be independent of candidates — has received $250,000 from Lauren Hantz, president of the Hantz Foundation, and $250,000 from Michael Reid, a consultant with the Hantz Group. The super PAC has spent about $430,000 on the race, frequently attacking Hernandez, according to disclosures.

Doug Slocum

Hernandez has benefited from $1.5 million in independent spending by the conservative group Club for Growth Action, much of it on TV ads. Club for Growth describes itself as "a national network of over 250,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans who share in the belief that prosperity and opportunity come from economic freedom."

The winner of the 10th District GOP primary on Tuesday will be considered the heavy favorite in the general election. In 2018 — a year Democrats won Michigan's top three statewide offices — Mitchell was reelected by 25 percentage points. 

Mitchell, a sophomore Republican, announced plans in July 2019 to retire at the conclusion of his current term. He cited an exasperation with political gridlock in Washington and a desire to spend more time with his family. 

"A career in Washington was never my objective," he said in a speech on the House floor announcing his plan to step down. "The time has come to make a difference for my family — to focus my time and energy upon them, their needs, their goals." 

klaing@detroitnews.com