Obama endorses newcomer Suzanna Shkreli for Congress

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed Democrat Suzanna Shkreli, who has mounted an aggressive challenge late in the election season against freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, a Rochester Republican.

Shkreli, 29, of Clarkston is a political newcomer who works as an assistant prosecutor in Macomb County. Since entering the race in July, Shkreli has raised more money than Bishop, but he maintains a deep cash advantage in the last weeks of the race.

Obama, who is a Democrat, called Shkreli a “tough and smart leader” in announcing his endorsement of her among 30 Democratic candidates for Congress. If elected, Shkreli would become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

“In Congress, Shkreli will be the kind of leader we need to create a stronger, safer, fairer country for working families,” Obama said in a statement.

“Suzanna Shkreli is a fighter for Michigan’s working families, and will work to level the playing field so that everyone has a shot at the American dream. In Congress, I know that Shkreli will stand up and fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, protect a woman’s right to choose and end the crushing burden of student loan debt. All Michigan families can count on Suzanna Shkreli to stand up for them, too.”

Bishop’s campaign countered by arguing Shrkeli is out of step with the district.

“It’s not surprising as Suzanna Shkreli is the hand-picked candidate of Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats,” said Stu Sandler, a Bishop spokesman.

“Liberal Democrats want a liberal candidate who will help Hillary Clinton and congressional Democrats pass their liberal agenda of Obamacare, tax hikes, gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and exhibiting weakness against radical Islamic terrorism. Suzanna Shkreli’s liberal agenda does not fit the 8th District.”

Kyle Kondik follows Congress for the University of Virginia Center for Politics, which rates the 8th Congressional District as “likely Republican.”

“The president’s approval rating is consistently over 50 percent now in national polls, which is a change from most of the rest of his second term. That makes his endorsement more valuable,” Kondik said.

“In 2014, Obama was more on the sidelines because he wasn’t as popular. This district is relatively affluent and well-educated, and it contains some Republicans who might not be all that keen on either candidate and might prefer Obama to either of them. It’s quite possible that Clinton will carry this district.”

Obama is traveling out west for three days of campaign stops for Democratic candidates.

He won Michigan’s 8th district in 2008, while then-incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Brighton won it overwhelmingly. But he lost the district to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 while Rogers again sailed to re-election.

The district includes includes Ingham, Livingston and parts of northern Oakland County.

Shkreli joined the ticket after actress Melissa Gilbert of Livingston County withdrew from the contest for health reasons in late May. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month added Shkreli to its Red to Blue program for competitive races, which offers candidates financial, communications, grassroots and other strategic support.

Shkreli reported $411,421 in contributions between July 1 and Sept. 30. Bishop raised $170,264 during the same period but has raised $2.1 million for the cycle, according to campaign finance reports. He reported $899,520 in cash reserves last month, compared with $150,072 for Shkreli.

Bishop’s campaign has drawn the support of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Relentless Positive Action PAC, which endorsed him among other Michigan Republican congressional candidates in late September. Also, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has appeared with Bishop in the district, attending an October fundraiser there.

Bishop, former Senate majority leader in the state Legislature, won his seat by more than 12 percentage points in 2014 when he faced Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing.


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Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.