Michigan GOP holds on to its seats in Congress

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting

Republicans defended their 9-5 majority in Michigan’s congressional delegation Tuesday night when national experts had expected Democrats to flip a few seats in the U.S. House.

The state’s delegation is getting at least two new representatives because of retirements. Republican Jack Bergman will replace retiring Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, in the 1st District representing northern Michigan, and Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, was poised late Tuesday to succeed Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township.

“Our two freshmen, Lt. General Jack Bergman and Paul Mitchell, will have big shoes to fill but are more than up to the task,” Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel said in a statement.

Miller, while leaving Washington, was on the ballot Tuesday in Macomb County for the office of public works commissioner.

Republican Mike Bishop of Rochester held onto his seat in the 9th District, as did Republicans Tim Walberg in District 7 and Dave Trott in District 11. Grand Rapids-area Republican Justin Amash won re-election, as did Bill Huizenga in District 2 and John Moolenaar in District 4.

In southwestern Michigan, Republican Rep. Fred Upton defeated Democrat Paul Clements in a rematch of their 2014 contest.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, won his race and continues to be the longest-serving member in Congress. Also on the Democratic side, Reps. Sandy Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence also won re-election.

Bergman takes northern seat

In northern Michigan, Bergman pulled ahead of Democrat Lon Johnson 55 percent to 40 percent, with more 80 percent of precincts reporting.

“I’m honored and humbled by what has occurred tonight. It’s a great night for my family, for supporters and the 1st District of Michigan,” Bergman told The Detroit News.

Bergman, a retired airline pilot and Marine, and Johnson, former Michigan Democratic Party chairman, have battled on trade, health care and Social Security.

Bergman succeeds Benishek, who is retiring after three terms. Outside groups pumped more than $4 million in independent expenditures into the 1st District, largely for attack ads.

“I’m a first time campaigner, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But what I was really hoping for was that the people – when all the dust had cleared – would see what the real issues were and make an informed decision on their votes,” Bergman said.

Walberg hangs on in 7th

Walberg, a pastor from Tipton, defeated Democratic challenger state Rep. Gretchen Driskell, the former mayor of Saline.

“We saw uncharacteristically low Democratic base turnout in previously Democratic communities,” Driskell campaign manager Keenan Pontoni said, “particularly Eaton, Washtenaw and some of the more urban areas of Jackson and Monroe.”

The candidates had traded barbs on trade deals and trustworthiness, among other attacks. Both touted their bipartisan credentials while attempting to paint one other as an extremist. Walberg has a history of narrow finishes in the district.

“This has been a 22-month campaign since my opponent announced she was running three weeks after I was sworn in. It was a long, drawn out affair, but I think the issues won the day,” Walberg told The Detroit News.

Walberg said that when he was able to explain his record to voters, they realized he “voted with the district.”

The Tipton Republican called it “a privilege” to represent his district and said he hopes the county and congress can come together after a divisive campaign season.

“We certainly need to unify,” he said. “This country is just too divided right now.”

With nearly two-thirds of precincts reporting, the margin between Walberg and Driskell was 57-38 percent.

“We should all be encouraged tonight to know that our values resonated with so many voters and supporters,” Driskell wrote in an email to supporters.

Bishop victorious in 8th

Bishop, a Republican from Rochester, held off Democratic challenger Suzanna Shkreli of Clarkston, an assistant prosecutor in Macomb County.

Shkreli, a 29-year-old political newcomer, had outraised and outspent Bishop since announcing her candidacy in early July, though Bishop outraised her overall. Actress Melissa Gilbert withdrew from the race for health reasons in late May.

“It’s been a long, crazy, uphill, downhill roller coaster of a race,” Bishop told The Detroit News. “I didn’t expect it to go in some of the directions it went, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to serve two more years.”

The political veteran said he’d “never been part of a race like that before,” referencing the flood of negative attack ads.

Bishop said his first two years in Congress allowed him to build upon the reputation he had already. “People know me, and I think they trust me. That makes a difference,” he said.

“Although we fell short today, this journey does not end,” Shkreli said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing the fight for middle-class families to create good-paying jobs, protect Social Security and Medicare, and rein in the cost of tuition.”

The district includes Ingham, Livingston and parts of northern Oakland County. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, the margin between Bishop and Shkreli was 57-38 percent.

Upton wins in west

Upton retained his southwest Michigan seat after a second challenge by Paul Clements, who teaches economic development at Western Michigan University.

When Clements called Upton to concede he wished him well and asked him to to work to move the country to a carbon-free energy future.

“Though we didn’t win, our campaigns have set fundraising records for Democrats in this district, and we built the strongest district-wide field program ever,” Clements said. “I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish as a candidate, and I think the future is bright for Democrats in Southwest Michigan.”

The margin between Upton from St. Joseph and Clements was 58 percent to 37 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

Trott gets second term

Freshman Rep. Dave Trott, the 56-year-old Republican from Birmingham, won a second term, repelling a challenge from Dr. Anil Kumar, D-Bloomfield Township.

Kumar, 65, is chief of surgery at Crittenton Hospital. He pumped hundreds of thousands of his own dollars into his bid to unseat Trott; however, Trott had outraised Kumar through Oct. 19, according to campaign finance reports.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, the margin between Trott and Kumar was 53-40 percent.

Conyers is still dean

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, will remain the dean of the U.S. House of Representatives with a sizable lead over Jeff Gorman, R-Garden City.

Conyers, 87, has been in Congress since 1965. He is the ranking Democrat on the prestigious Judiciary Committee and was a founding member of the Black Congressional Caucus.

At the end of 2018, he would become the third-longest-serving member of Congress in history after passing Jamie Whitten of Mississippi and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii in the record books.

With 76 percent of precincts reporting, the margin between Conyers and Gorman was 83-10 percent.

In other races:

District 2: U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, beat Dennis Murphy, D-Grandville. The 47-year-old lawmaker is on his way to a fourth term in Congress.

District 3: U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, defeated Douglas Smith, D-Belmont

District 4: Freshman U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, won against Deborah Wirth, D-Dewitt.

District 5: U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, won against Al Hardwick, R-Davison. The 58-year-old legislator is on his way to a third term in Congress, where he has been championing federal aid to help the water and public health problems stemming from lead contamination in Flint.

District 9: U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, won his race against Christopher Morse, R-Bloomfield Hills. The 85-year-old Levin was first elected to Congress in 1982. He is the ranking Democrat on the powerful tax-writing Ways & Means Committee.

District 10: Republican and retired businessman Paul Mitchell of Dryden beat former state Rep. Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Grosse Pointe Shores, and on track to join Congress following a failed 2014 candidacy in Michigan’s 4th District. The winner replaces Rep. Candice Miller, who is retiring.

District 12: Freshman U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, the 62-year-old Democrat from Dearborn, defeated Jeff Jones, R-Taylor, and is on track for her second term in Congress.

District 14: U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, won her race against Howard Klausner, R-Southfield. The 62-year-old incumbent is headed for her second term.


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