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U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who lost his Republican primary in August, said Thursday he intends to file Friday as a write-in candidate in the 11th Congressional District.

Bentivolio said his write-in candidacy is not designed to derail Republican Dave Trott's campaign and hand over the GOP-dominated seat to Democrat Bobby McKenzie of Canton Township.

The Milford Republican said he's trying to encourage discouraged Republicans to turn out to vote for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, who trails Democrat Gary Peters in most polls.

"That's the primary objective," Bentivolio told The Detroit News.

Trott, a wealthy attorney and businessman from Birmingham, trounced Bentivolio in the August primary by 33 percentage points after spending nearly $2.4 million of his own money on an ad blitz that portrayed the incumbent congressman as out of touch with voters in southern Oakland and western Wayne counties.

"I was complimented that someone could spend $5 million to unseat somebody who has never done anything to tarnish this office," said Bentivolio, who has refused to endorse Trott. "I'm not going to endorse a guy who slandered and libeled my good name."

Bentivolio, a military veteran and former teacher and reindeer rancher, won the 11th District seat in 2012 after then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to get on the Republican primary ballot in a petition scandal.

Bentivolio has since claimed the GOP establishment in suburban Detroit has been dead set on ousting him from office.

Bentivolio said he was motivated to run as a write-in candidate after Trott's allies continued to "go after my character as well as some of my staff" after the primary election by posting disparaging comments on Facebook and Twitter.

He said more than 500 voters have said they would sit out the election if he doesn't run as a write-in candidate, hindering other Republicans on the ballot.

"What really got me is people telling me they were not going to vote," Bentivolio said.

Former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Bentivolio in the August 2012 primary.

"In the past, Bentivolio has urged Republicans to avoid write-in efforts," said Megan Piwowar, campaign manager for Trott. "If he wants to disrespect the overwhelming number of voters, that's his choice."

The development overshadowed other events in the congressional race Thursday, which included McKenzie's appearance with Michigan's two Democratic senators and three congressmen at a union hall and Trott's announcement that he has more than $1 million in cash on hand with five weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election.

"I am focused on my own campaign," McKenzie said. "... I don't want to get bogged down with what others may or may not do."

The crowd of about 100 people at the UAW Local 182 union hall in Livonia broke out in shouts and applause when Congressman Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, announced the news of Bentivolio's write-in campaign.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

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