Mason — Candidates for Congress were out in force over the weekend, shaking hands, visiting churches and stumping at farmers markets to rally supporters and encourage voters to cast ballots in Tuesday's primary. 

Michigan has three open U.S House seats on the ballot on Tuesday, as well as the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.  

At the Ingham County Fair on Saturday, Republican Senate hopeful Sandy Pensler greeted fair-goers sipping snow cones and fresh lemonade to introduce himself and offer campaign literature.

"At the end, it's a mad dash," said Pensler, the Grosse Pointe financier who had gone from Detroit to Macomb County to Alpena to Sault St. Marie to Grand Haven to campaign in the previous 24 hours. 

"It's an exciting time. You got to see as many people as you can." 

Pensler will face Farmington Hills businessman and U.S. Army veteran John James in Tuesday's primary. James recently picked up a late endorsement by President Donald Trump. 

"I think it's going to be close. And you gotta run through the tape. You have to keep fighting all the way through to the end," Pensler said.

"Come Tuesday night, we'll find out we got the one endorsement that matters, which is the people of Michigan's."  

James spent Sunday afternoon campaigning at the Johnstone Supply company picnic at Addison Oaks County Park in Leonard Township, where employees enjoyed barbecue and kids sweated in the bounce house.

James said he's not slowing down his pace, despite Trump's endorsement. 

"Complacency kills and that is what I drilled home to all of my men when we deployed to Iraq," James said.

"Yes, we have an amazing team. Yes, we have an amazing endorsement from President Trump. But we will not let up."

Company owner Jeff Sheehan said he invited James because he wants to see more businessmen in Washington. 

"I love the idea that he's a veteran," Sheehan said. "We don't need illegals coming to the country. We need people coming to the country legally. As many as we can get because, as a business owner, we need them. And I believe he believes in that, too." 

Voter Don Kill of Mason, who was attending the Ingham fair with his family, said he's voting for Pensler, despite Trump's endorsement. 

"I vote for the person, not for the party," Kill said. 

13th District 

Six candidates are competing in the 13th District for the Democratic nomination, which will effectively decide the race because no Republican is running in the general election.

The winner will succeed U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit, who resigned in December.

Candidate and Westland Mayor Bill Wild spent Sunday morning visiting churches in Detroit, starting out at Triumph Church's East Campus at 7:30 a.m.

With a cross pin on his lapel, he shook congregants' hands as they entered, introducing himself. 

Wild said he's visited three churches every Sunday since March. His campaign's focus right now is undecided voters, he said. 

"We're down to the last couple of days, and I think we're in a great position," Wild said. 

"We're getting good responses on the doors. There's a lot of excitement."

Inside the sanctuary, the Triumph Mass Choir stood six rows deep in purple T-shirts, swaying and clapping and singing. The Rev. Solomon W. Kinloch, Jr. introduced Wild about an hour into the service but didn't invite him to speak. 

Afterwards, several church members said they remain undecided, including Samuel Williams of Detroit. 

"I have no idea," Williams said. "I just have to get a feel for it first." 

Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, who is also running in the 13th, spoke to volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Detroit's Old Redford neighborhood after a poll-watcher training on Sunday afternoon.

She urged them to make people feel appreciated that they came out to vote. 

"Beyond here, beyond our 13th Congressional District, there's people that need us to win, and they need it so badly. Somebody said, 'You have to win because if you win then we belong,'" said Tlaib, who would be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. 

She noted many of her donors are first-time contributors to a political campaign. 

"They don't want anything but for me to win and to swear on the Holy Quran, so they can say to their kids, that's somebody with the same faith as you standing up there. They tried to ban us from the country, but they can't ban us from Congress."

In an interview, Tlaib said she's feeling excited but also anxious and scared about Tuesday's primary. 

"So many people see this campaign as so much more than getting me elected. It's a message for the nation, and that's a tremendous amount of pressure — on top of making sure that I'm getting out to the doors and raising the money we need and making sure my volunteers are loved and taken care of," she said.

"This is such a humbling experience." 

11th District 

Ten candidates are on the ballot in the Democratic and Republican primaries for the 11th District, where GOP Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham is retiring. 

State Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, followed a list of targeted addresses in northern Livonia on Saturday afternoon as he and volunteers knocked on doors in the Deer Creek neighborhood. 

If no one answered, he wrote a note on a flier and left it curled in the door handle. When the door opened, Greimel launched into his pitch. 

"I've never been shy about standing up to the right wing and certainly won't be shy about standing up to all the excesses and abuses of the Trump administration," Greimel began. 

"Can I count on your vote?" he concluded moments later. 

"You helped with Medicaid expansion? Excellent," said Elizabeth Jones, a family medicine doctor, who said she'd vote for Greimel. 

In an interview, Greimel said his campaign was accelerating get-out-the-vote efforts in the final hours. 

"We anticipate a very close primary election," he said. "We take the primary very seriously, and we're focused on making sure we do what we need to do between now and Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee. 

Democrat Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills spent part of Sunday morning shaking hands and greeting people at the Birmingham Farmers Market. 

"Haley. Like the comet," she said helpfully when introducing herself.

"I grew up just up the street," she added, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. 

Stevens stressed that she served as chief of staff of President Barack Obama's auto bailout task force. On Sunday, she also picked up an endorsement by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. 

Birmingham Mayor Andy Harris introduced her to neighbors as "our next U.S. congresswoman."  

"I know your name," Lisa Sarkisian of Birmingham told Stevens. "I'll vote for you as long as you don't endorse Trump."

In an interview, Stevens said she's been wowed by the grassroots "groundswell" of energy in the district. 

"Going into Tuesday, numbers are up. People are ready to vote, and I'm feeling good about how we've captured that energy and that excitement. I was the first person in this race and it's just an energy and momentum we've kept up the entire time," she said. 

"I do think some people are still weighing it out, and that's why I'm out there asking for every vote."  

In Troy, Republican candidate Lena Epstein made the rounds at the Traffic Jam auto show, greeting folks as they wandered the rows of shiny cars. 

Epstein said she likes her opponents "very much." "Respectfully, they're not going to win," she added. 

"I've never been more inspired and more excited about what lies ahead," Epstein said.

"We have the most aggressive and well-executed ground game in Michigan — arguably, in the nation, in my opinion."

Epstein said she's knocked doors all over the district and feels "very optimistic." 

"All eyes will be on Michigan's 11th District, and it will be a great honor, a great honor, to push through that finish line on Tuesday and, God willing, be the nominee for this incredible district," she said. 

Down the street in Troy, Republican Rocky Raczkowski was rallying volunteers at his campaign headquarters Sunday afternoon before heading out for canvassing around town. 

His team had just put the final touches on a new radio ad set to air Monday.

"We don't believe in stopping our voter outreach until the very last minute, which is Tuesday at 6:59 p.m.," Raczkowski said. 

His plan for Tuesday is to shake hands before the polls open and visit some doughnut shops. 

"I feel very comfortable. We know that we've worked very hard, and we've basically done almost everything with nothing," said Raczkowski, referring to his modest campaign budget. 

"That's the kind of person that we — the residents of our district — would want in Washington. Someone who can do everything with nothing. Someone who knows how to cut the budget."

He said Tuesday's decision come down to service. He described his opponents as "nice people."

"But not people that I felt comfortable enough to represent me and my daughter and fighting for our future," Raczkowski said.

"And I look at the Democrats, and I feel even worse. It's time that we actually send someone who is not concerned about their political future but can actually change and fight Washington." 


Twitter: @nannburke

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