Candidate filings draw Mich.’s battles for Congress

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

The battle lines have been drawn in two open congressional seats in Michigan that promise to provide competitive Republican primaries this summer and a chance for Democrats to steal a seat from the GOP in November.

The deadline for candidates to file for the Aug. 2 primary was 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The 10th Congressional District seat being vacated the GOP’s U.S. Rep. Candice Miller has attracted four Republicans — state Sen. Phil Pavlov of St. Clair, Rep. Anthony Forlini of Harrison Township, former Sen. Alan Sanborn of Shelby Township and millionaire businessman Paul Mitchell of Dryden Township.

After spending more than $3.5 million two years ago in a failed bid for the 4th District seat now held by John Moolenaar, Mitchell moved south to Lapeer County and has infused $2 million of his fortune into this second bid for Congress, according to campaign finance reports.

Mitchell, the former CEO of Ross Medical Education Center, said his self-financing helps defuse a hot-button issue with voters “skeptical” about the sources of money in politics.

“I prefer to spend my time meeting with community leaders and groups and it’s not very easy to do that if you go with the theme that I’ll only meet with the people who give me a check,” said Mitchell, who has $1.45 million in campaign cash on hand.

Pavlov trails far behind Mitchell with about $135,000 in cash on hand, according to a report filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.

But the second-term state senator downplays the significance of his opponent’s warchest.

“I don’t think it creates any kind of advantage you can’t overcome,” Pavlov said. “I mean there’s some things money can’t buy.”

In northern Michigan’s 1st District, Republicans are girding for a potentially bruising primary there between state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, former Sen. Jason Allen of Traverse City and Jack Berman, a retired Marine Corps brigadier general from Watersmeet in the western Upper Peninsula.

The three men are vying for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls.

Casperson leads in the early fund-raising with about $192,000 in his campaign account at the end March, compared with Allen’s $154,000 in cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson of Kalkaska is running an aggressive campaign to win back the seat after six years of GOP control under Benishek.

Johnson has amassed a $900,000 war chest so far, but faces a primary challenge from Jerry Cannon, the former Kalkaska County sheriff who was Benishek’s Democratic opponent in 2014. Cannon had just $7,177 cash on hand at the end of March compared with Johnson’s $608,000, according to FEC records.

The 1st Congressional District has been rated a “toss-up” race by the political handicappers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

In Wayne County, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. is facing another Democratic primary challenge — this time from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey and Detroiter Kenneth Garner. Conyers is bidding for a 27th term and the continued title of being the longest-serving member of Congress.

Conyers won his 26th term in 2014 after nearly not making the August primary ballot for failing to collect a minimum 1,000 valid voter signatures before the deadline.

This time around, Conyers organized his re-election campaign much earlier and turned in 1,981 signatures almost two weeks ahead of Tuesday’s filing deadline.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood