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Holland pastor aims to challenge Huizenga for U.S. House seat

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Democrat Bryan Berghoef, a pastor, said Monday he's running for Congress, intending to challenge five-term West Michigan Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga in 2020.

It's the first run for public office for Berghoef, who helped organize a rally in Holland last year to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and their families.  

The Rev. Bryan Berghoef, a Democrat from Holland, is running for Congress in the 2nd District.

Berghoef grew up in Coopersville and Sparta and is pastor of Holland United Church of Christ. He said his campaign “will restore integrity to the 2nd Congressional District office.”

"Too many people in the district have been ignored for too long because they are not wealthy enough or don't know the right people," Berghoef said in a statement. "I intend to put the seat back to work for the people who live here."

Berghoef, 44, lives in the Holland area but resides outside of Michigan's 2nd District, whose territory includes Muskegon and Ottawa counties and part of Kent County and which Huizenga has represented since 2011.  

Candidates for U.S. House are not required to live in the district where they seek election but must live in the same state. 

"While my entire life exists within the 2nd Congressional District, political gerrymandering practices by the state Legislature cut my house out of the district," Berghoef said in a statement to The Detroit News. 

"I work, send my kids to school and spend my time within the second district; my house simply happens to be two blocks from the border." 

Huizenga, 50, of Zeeland is a former state lawmaker who faced a well-financed Democrat, physician Rob Davidson, in 2018, defeating him by 12 percentage points. 

"There’s a long time before we need to be talking about campaigns. The Democrats need to get past their primary next year and decide who their candidate is," said Jim Barry, chairman of Huizenga's campaign and his half brother. 

"Right now, Bill has a job to do. He’s focused on strengthening the economy, improving border security, protecting life and making West Michigan an even better place to live, work, and raise a family."

Davidson has said he's not running for the seat again in 2020 and on Sunday endorsed Berghoef.

"We are going to build on what Dr. Rob Davidson did in 2018," Berghoef said.

Berghoef said he will accept no donations from corporate political action committees, saying money in politics has gotten "out of control."

Berghoef said he graduated from the University of Michigan and Calvin Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2005, initially in the Christian Reformed Church, according to his campaign.

He is the author of "Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation and God," based on conversations with people of various faith traditions and political backgrounds. 

"My faith compels me to take action when I see my neighbors hurting, when the marginalized are ignored and mistreated, and when God’s creation is under siege," he said.

He and his wife Christy have four children ages 10 to 16.