Driskell mounts third challenge to Rep. Walberg but faces opposition

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Former Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell wants to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg for a third time in 2020, but she faces Democratic primary opposition.

Driskell lost by 8 percentage points to Walberg last year and 15 points in 2016. The 7th Congressional District includes the counties of Branch, Eaton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee and Monroe and western Washtenaw.

In a Wednesday statement announcing her candidacy, Driskell said she will provide the representation Michigan has been lacking while 68-year-old Walberg has been “asleep at the wheel” in Washington, D.C.

Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline

“After 27 years in office, Congressman Walberg is part of the problem,” Driskell said, referring to his time in Congress and the Michigan Legislature. “He spends his time playing political games and bickering, not working to solve our problems.”

Driskell said she plans to focus on job creation, affordable health care and low-cost prescription drugs.

“We need Washington to help us start building again, but we can’t hope to change Washington unless we change the people we send there,” she said.

Walberg's campaign said the Congressman remains focused on "bipartisan solutions" for job growth, low-cost prescription drugs and protections for the Great Lakes, while the Democratic Party zeroes in on "political impeachment hearings."

"It appears perennial candidate Gretchen Driskell is not satisfied with wasting millions and losing big twice, but first she must defend her failed record in the Democratic primary," Walberg's campaign said in a statement. 

Walberg voted against the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Driskell says an inquiry is "warranted and serious," spokesman BJ Neidhardt said Wednesday.

"I don’t want to prejudge the serious proceedings happening in Washington, but I would hope that they wrap up soon that Washington might finally focus on getting something done for Michigan," Driskell said in a statement.

Driskell, 61, was Saline’s first female mayor and served in the position for 14 years before moving to the state House of Representatives. Although she lost to Walberg in 2018, she raised more money than the Tipton Republican during the campaign cycle.

The Cook Political Report considers the 7th District as a solid Republican seat, while it considers Independent Rep. Justin Amash's race as a toss-up and GOP Rep. Fred Upton's race as a likely Republican victory. 

Other candidates for the seat include Democrats Samuel Branscrum of Deerfield, Christopher Smith of Saline, Bruce Gidner of Charlotte and Ryan Hall of Tecumseh, according to the Federal Election Commission.