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A Port Huron Republican lawmaker is the first legislator to announce his candidacy for a congressional seat opened by the impending retirement of GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell.

State Rep. Shane Hernandez, chairman for the House Appropriations Committee, will run in the Republican primary for the 10th Congressional District that includes parts of northern Macomb County, St. Clair County and the Thumb. 

A former architectural designer now serving his second term in the state House, Hernandez, 37, said he is a “steadfast conservative” who will continue to be “a fighter for the conservative values” in the largely Republican district. 

In a video announcing his candidacy, Hernandez credited his father’s work ethic during a 26-year career at a Croswell factory as the impetus behind his education and business experience as well as his later service in the House. 

“I believe in the American dream because I’ve lived it, and today I’m running for Congress to protect it,” Hernandez said.  

The Republican Party is seeking to protect the 10th District in 2020 while it is looking to recapture two GOP-leaning seats it lost in 2018. Democratic U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens flipped the 8th and 11th districts and are facing GOP TV ad attacks challenging their support for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. 

Mitchell, a sophomore in Congress from Dryden, announced his retirement in July, saying he was exasperated by political gridlock and wanted to spend more time with family. It came about a week after Mitchell expressed frustration with Trump’s tweet urging four progressive Democratic House members to “go back” to their countries. 

A 62-year-old millionaire and former corporate executive, Mitchell spent nearly $7.5 million of his own money pursuing a U.S. House seat in the 2014 and 2016 elections. 

He won reelection in 2018 by 25 percentage points in a district that Trump won by 32 points in 2016. He succeeded Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township in the district that encompasses northern Macomb County and St. Clair, Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer counties. 

While Mitchell questioned Trump’s rhetoric this summer, Hernandez seemed committed to working with the president in the video announcing his candidacy. 

Hernandez touted his work in the House to fight tax increases, protect the unborn and defend individual liberties. He cited policy priorities such as protecting the Great Lakes and securing trade deals that benefit manufacturing and agriculture.

“President Trump is standing strong against the forces of socialism, but he needs help,” Hernandez said. “In Congress, I will fight alongside President Trump and I will never relent. 

Hernandez was one of several Republican candidates rumored to be interested in the 10th district seat. Other potential candidates include GOP state Sen. Pete Lucido of Shelby Township and former state Rep. Pete Lund, state director for the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity. 

Federal Election Commission records indicate five others already have filed paperwork to run for the seat including Republicans Richard Piwko of Lexington and Brandon Mikula of Macomb, and Democrats Kelly Lynn Noland and Kimberly Bizon, who lost to Mitchell last year.; 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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