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Driskell seeks rematch with Rep. Walberg

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Democrat Gretchen Driskell wants a rematch with Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg.

The former state legislator and Saline mayor announced Wednesday that she is running for Congress again in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Branch, Eaton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee and Monroe counties along with a portion of Washtenaw County.

She is the first Democrat to enter the 2018 race.

“The economies in our towns need to be supported, so that everyone can make a living in the town they grew up in,” Driskell said in comments distributed by her campaign. “No one should have to move to find work with all of the possibilities here at home for new and revitalized business.”

Driskell criticized Walberg for his recent vote on House Republican health care overhaul legislation, which she said would have raised premiums for families, seniors or those with pre-existing conditions and “shows that he’s not listening to Michiganders.”

Driskell’s argument about Michigan patients with pre-existing conditions getting hurt is questionable. Gov. Rick Snyder said the state would not seek a waiver from coverage protections in current law allowed under the House health legislation.

But Driskell primarily focused on the economy in her campaign launch, saying that Michigan residents “are known throughout the world for building and innovating, in shops large and small, and now is the time to build on these efforts.”

Walberg, R-Tipton, defeated Driskell by more than 15 percentage points in 2016, winning 184,321 votes to her 134,010.

“Voters already rejected Gretchen Driskell because she lied repeatedly on her resume, couldn't pass any bills as a legislator and now she starts her campaign in debt,” Walberg campaign spokesman Joe Wicks said in a statement.

“Congressman Walberg is focused on continuing to successfully represent his constituents by advancing bipartisan solutions to create jobs, grow a healthy economy, and combat the opioid epidemic."

Walberg ran ads in 2016 accusing Driskell of inflating her resume by previously referring to herself as a real estate “broker” even though she is a real-estate agent without the training required for a broker’s license. Driskell called it a “diversion,” suggesting the terms agent and broker are often used interchangeably in the commercial real estate world and that she never represented herself as a managing or associate broker.

Driskell announced her 2018 run during a morning event at the Saline Recreation Center, which she helped lead the effort to rebuild 25 years ago, according to her campaign. The 58-year-old Democratic hopeful was also scheduled to meet with voters at Dimitri’s Restaurant in Delta Township at 12:30 p.m.

Driskell served as Saline mayor for 14 years and won two terms in the state House before deciding to run for Congress.

She narrowly outperformed the top of the Democratic ticket in 2016, winning 40 percent of the vote in her loss to Walberg, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won 39 percent of the district vote in her loss to Republican President Donald Trump.

Walberg was elected to the U.S. House in 2006 after defeating U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz in the Republican primary, but he lost to Democrat Mark Schauer by less than two percentage points in 2008. Two years later, Walberg beat Schauer in a rematch by less than five points and has since held the seat.