McClain wins 10th District seat, will be only GOP woman in Michigan delegation

Republican businesswoman Lisa McClain won election to Congress on Wednesday, according to unofficial returns, filling the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell and keeping the district in GOP hands.

McClain of Bruce Township finished well ahead of Democratic challenger Kimberly Bizon of Lexington 66% to 34% with 100% of precincts reporting. 

Congressional candidate Lisa McClain gets a mention from President Donald Trump during his speech in September in Freeland.

"I am just extremely humbled honored and inspired that the people voted for me, and I can’t wait to get to D.C. and represent the district. The people spoke," McClain said in a Wednesday interview.

"I'm just really excited and inspired to go and 'make America great again.'" 

McClain will become the first Republican woman from Michigan to hold a seat in Congress since 2016 when then-U.S. Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township retired and was elected the Macomb County Public Works commissioner.

Miller represented the same heavily Republican 10th District, which covers a part of northern Macomb County as well as the Thumb counties of  St. Clair, Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer.

The GOP has struggled to recruit female candidates for Congress. A relatively small number of GOP women serve in the House — currently 13 members with several who are retiring. 

McClain said she hasn't focused on the issue, but that having people from different walks of life in leadership is a "good thing."

"I haven’t really focused on that or made it a big issue," she said. "But I am hoping to be a voice for a lot of those women, as well."

McClain heads to Washington for orientation at the House of Representatives next week. She aims to prioritize the economy, the federal deficit and the coronavirus pandemic in her first term, she said. 

"We've got to get the economy back and running. We need to get people back to work," she said.

"As much as I respect the coronavirus, I don’t fear it. You see, I believe people can make good decisions. I believe it’s not an 'or' but it's an 'and,'" McClain added.

"I believe in the power of people to figure out how to be safe and how not to let the economy go bankrupt." 

She said another COVID relief packages is needed but wants to go through it with "a fine tooth comb, because we can’t continue to put all this pork in these."

To help her prepare for Congress, she enlisted her former government professor, Timothy Nash of Northwood University, for several days of tutoring last month in civics, economics, capitalism and "the core principles of what this country was built on."

"It was fun to go back to school, so to speak," she said. "He's very good at helping me understand all sides of an issue. He plays the devil's advocate sometimes, which is good."

The 54-year-old McClain, a mom of four, won a heavily contested primary in August with 42% of the vote to Port Huron State Rep. Shane Hernandez's 36% and former Selfridge Air National Guard Base commander Doug Slocum's 22%.

She branded herself as a conservative outsider who had never run for political office before. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and upended traditional campaigning.

"We used COVID as an opportunity to reach out to a lot of voters. We did 1,700 to 2,000 calls a week during COVID because you couldn’t have events," she said.

"The beautiful thing about it was when we called people, they answered the phone and were happy to talk to somebody because they hadn’t been out of the house in two weeks."

McClain said she probably worked harder in her general election campaign than the primary, noting that without prior political experience, "I didn’t want to leave any stone overturned."

"I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I really wanted to work and use it as an opportunity to get out and meet more people in the district. It was a good experience, and I don’t regret it," she said. "Obviously, the hard work paid off."

In the strongly Republican district, Mitchell joked Tuesday that if McClain didn't win election, then "the world turned on changed axis and we're now going to be in Antarctica or something."

"It's a heavily Republican district. It has been and grew to be more Republican when I ran in 2016 and it stayed heavily Republican in 2018, despite the wave of Democrats that made gains," Mitchell said.

"We'll see how Ms. McClain adapts to life in D.C., which is very different than private-sector careers and experience back here."

mburke@detroitnews.com