Raczkowski, Epstein enter race to succeed Trott

Melissa Nann Burke

Rocky Raczkowski, former majority floor leader of the Michigan House, on Monday became the first Republican to announce a campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Trott in the 11th District.

“I’m running, and, we’re going to win. Period,” Raczkowski said in a Facebook post.

“I am a conservative, God-fearing patriot that believes that a single person can still change the world for the better.”

Trott, a Birmingham attorney and sophomore congressman, said last week he won’t run for re-election, putting his seat in play and in next year’s midterm elections.

Raczkowski, 48, of Troy is a decorated Iraq veteran and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He is currently president of an automotive and defense logistics firm, Imperium Logistics.

Raczkowski’s announcement was followed by news from GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein, who is ending her bid for U.S. Senate to instead pursue Trott’s seat in the U.S. House.

Her campaign said funds raised for the Senate seat would transfer to her congressional campaign, per Federal Election Commission guidelines.

“I’m incredibly proud of the success we were having in the race for U.S. Senate in terms of grassroots support, fundraising and early polling,” Epstein said in a statement.

“Yet I cannot ignore the requests from supporters, grassroots Republicans, and business leaders from throughout southeast Michigan who want to be sure that Republicans nominate the strongest possible candidate to hold this congressional seat.”

Epstein, 35, co-owns her family's business in Southfield, Vesco Oil Corp., and co-chaired President Donald Trump’s successful Michigan campaign last year. She has not previously held public office.

Epstein lives in Bloomfield Hills just outside the 11th District boundary but is willing to move into the district, according to a campaign spokesman. Members of Congress are not required to reside in the district they represent.

Raczkowski had endorsed Epstein earlier this year when she was running for Senate.

He previously ran for Congress in 2010, unsuccessfully challenging then-Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat, and in 2002 winning the GOP nomination to challenge then-Sen. Carl Levin.

Raczkowski said he intends to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to officially register his campaign in the next two weeks. His old campaign committee reported about $147,735 in debt in 2012.

Upon Trott’s decision to retire, political analysts at the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball revised their ratings for the 11th District from “likely” Republican to a toss-up to reflect Democrats’ increased chances of flipping the seat.

Trott’s announcement set off a flurry of chatter in GOP circles over the potential contenders to succeed him in Congress.

“I’m confident that our voters will pick a good candidate out of a number of people who are running that we can win with in November of 2018,” Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said.

“We’ve held that seat for a while, and I think we can continue to hold it. We’re going to be there helping.”

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, said he is also planning to announce a run for the GOP nomination.

Other Republicans who expressed early interest in the seat include state Sens. Marty Knollenberg of Troy and Mike Kowall of White Lake Township, state Reps. Laura Cox of Livonia and former state Rep. Kurt Heise, the current supervisor in Plymouth Township.

Former U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who represented the district for a single term before losing a primary challenge to Trott, is also considering the race.

“I am looking into it,” Bentivolio said last week by email. “I think President Trump needs reinforcements to make America great again.”

Two Democrats are already in the 11th District race: Haley Stevens, former chief of staff to Obama's Auto Task Force, and Fayrouz Saad, Detroit's former director of immigration affairs. Physician Anil Kumar, who challenged Trott last year, is also considering another run.

Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed