The National Republican Congressional Committee has added Rocky Raczkowski, Klint Kesto and Candius Stearns to its second round of “On the Radar” candidates.

Raczkowski of Troy and Kesto of Commerce Township are both seeking the GOP nomination in the 11th District, where U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, is retiring. The NRCC previously added businesswoman Lena Epstein, who is also running in the 11th, to the program last fall.

Stearns of Sterling Heights is running for the open seat in the 9th District, where longtime Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, is retiring.

On the Radar is the first of three levels of the NRCC’s Young Guns program, which requires candidates to meet goals for fundraising and communication in their districts.

“We’re excited to announce another round of impressive candidates who’ve put themselves in position to be successful in 2018,” NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in a statement.

“House Democrats have tried to obstruct our agenda at every turn and our Republican challengers are ready to hold them accountable.”

Engler returns to Capitol

Former Gov. John Engler returned to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday a couple of hours after he was chosen as interim president of Michigan State University, describing it as the kind of homecoming he wouldn’t have imagined “in a million years.”

Engler met with legislative leaders after sitting down for a brief meeting with Gov Rick Snyder. He’d last been to the Capitol a “couple of years ago” as a visitor.

“I wasn’t planning coming back here laying in state,” he joked, his booming laugh echoing down the hallways of the historic building.“I might have visited but I wasn’t planning on being back here for this. It’s quite a change. Believe me, last Wednesday, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be here.”

Engler wore a green tie and a MSU lapel pin, which he described as an intentional wardrobe choice as he takes over on Feb. 5 a university reeling from the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. He graduated from there in 1971 with a degree in agricultural economics before getting elected to the state House in 1972 at the age of 22.

“I wear the tie a lot anyway, but it was a perfect choice today,” Engler said. “I was honored to receive the Spartan pin when I arrived on campus. It wasn’t mine, but it is now.”

Peters gains Senate post

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, has been selected to serve as the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

The panel has oversight of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and surface transportation security programs within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Michigan is an international hub for trade, transportation and logistics, and our state relies on a safe and efficient transportation system to move goods and people,” Peters said in a statement.

“I look forward to tackling the challenges facing the nation’s surface transportation systems, including the need to upgrade our ports and maritime channels, secure strong funding for roads, rails, broadband, and water systems in any future infrastructure plan, and ensure the United States remains the world-leader in transportation innovation.”

Also, Peters is set to deliver the annual reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address in the Senate chamber on Feb. 26.

The tradition dates to February 1862 during the Civil War. The Senate has marked Washington’s birthday by selecting a member to read the 7,641-word address every year since 1896, according to the Senate’s website.

The parties take turns having one of their members do the reading, which takes about 45 minutes.

Eligibility ‘red herring’?

Questions over Democrat Abdul El-Sayed’s eligibility to run for Michigan governor are a “red herring,” said former Federal Election Commission Chairman Robert Lenhard, outside counsel to the campaign.

As first reported by Bridge Magazine, El-Sayed was registered to vote in New York as recently March 2015, but the Michigan Constituion requires candidates for governor to live here at least four years prior to their election.

El-Sayed’s campaign has said he maintained an apartment in Michigan while attending graduate school and working as a professor in at Columbia University in New York. He was continuously registered to vote here but had been but on “cancellation countdown status,” according to state records.

“We have looked at this question closely and are confident Abdul El-Sayed is qualified to run for governor of Michigan,” Lenhard in a Wednesday statement released by the campaign. “Michigan law has never held that absences from the state for school or work cause you to lose your residence. This issue is just a red herring."

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Jonathan Oosting

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