State lawmakers running for open seats in Congress

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Two more congressional hopefuls on Monday joined the growing lists of candidates for two of Michigan’s three open seats in the U.S. House.


State Sen. Mike Kowall, the Senate majority floor leader, hopes to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, joining a field of a half dozen candidates vying for the Republican nomination.

And former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, a Detroit Democrat, intends to run for the 13th District seat of former Rep. John Conyers Jr., who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct with female aides.

Kowall of White Lake Township said in a statement that residents of the 11th District want “someone who is ready to go toe-to-toe with the Washington establishment.”

He said his campaign will focus on creating “good-paying jobs and growing our regional economy.”

Former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit is running for the House seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

“The families, seniors and veterans of our community need a strong voice in Washington, and that’s why I’m running,” Kowall added.

Other candidates vying for the GOP nomination include businesswoman Lena Epstein of Bloomfield Township; state Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township; former state House Majority Leader Rocky Raczkowski of Troy; Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise; former U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford; and Kristine Bonds of West Bloomfield Township.

Democrats running for the seat include Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills, Fayrouz Saad of Northville, Dan Haberman of Birmingham, state Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills and Suneel Gupta of Birmingham.

Political analysts have moved the district from a rating of “likely” Republican to a toss-up to reflect Democrats’ increased chances of flipping the open seat.

Last summer, Kowall was among the first declared candidates competing to replace term-limited Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. When Trott, a sophomore congressman, unexpectedly announced plans to retire in September, Kowall expressed interest in the seat.

Kowall grew up in Detroit and was elected to the state Senate in 2010 after serving as the supervisor of Charter Township of White Lake Township, and in the state House from 1998 to 2002. He serves as vice chair of the Senate Commerce and the Oversight committees.

Jackson is the director of government relations for the Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. She plans to formally announce her campaign in the next few weeks, she said Monday.

She ran in the Democratic primary in the 13th District in 2012 and came in third, receiving 13 percent of the vote behind Conyers and then-State Sen. Glenn Anderson of Westland.

“I’ve had people from around the district, from Romulus to Redford, ask me to run again, and I have decided to do it,” Jackson said by email.

She served in the state House from 2007 through 2012 representing Michigan’s 9th District.

The primary race in the 13th District already includes Conyers’ 27-year-old son, John Conyers III, and his great-nephew state Sen. Ian Conyers.

Others include state Sen. Coleman Young III, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and Democratic activist Michael Gilmore. Detroit NAACP executive director Donnell White is also reportedly considering a run.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has set the special election to fill Conyers’ seat to coincide with the regularly scheduled 2018 primary and general elections on Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.