Michigan Sen. Tom Barrett announces U.S. House campaign

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — State Sen. Tom Barrett, a conservative Republican from Charlotte, announced Monday he'll run for Congress in 2022, potentially setting up a high-stakes race between two rising stars in Michigan politics.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, is expected to run for reelection in the Lansing-based district that's being drafted by the state's new redistricting commission. That's also where Barrett, who has represented areas surrounding Lansing in the state Legislature, will campaign.

Michigan state Sen. Tom Barrett announces his campaign for the U.S. House on Nov. 15, 2021.

In a video posted on Facebook Monday morning, Barrett, 40, spoke out against President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination requirements for military members, said he's leaving the Army after 21 years of service and announced he's running for the U.S. House in 2022.

"My next deployment is Washington, D.C.," Barrett said in the video.

The lawmaker's announcement focused on federal vaccine policies, saying every soldier and every American should have the "freedom to make that choice for themselves."

"I am running to put an end to this invasion of our constitutional rights," the state senator said, "to stand up for those afraid of losing their career or struggling to put food on the table in Biden's economy."

Under the federal government's policy, announced Nov. 4, businesses with 100 or more employees must implement and enforce a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a mask. A federal appeals court has granted and upheld an emergency delay of the mandate.  

The nation's unvaccinated workers face grave danger from workplace exposure to coronavirus, and immediate action is necessary to protect them, Biden's administration has argued.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ripped Barrett's announcement Monday.

"Tom Barrett’s record represents the worst of partisan politics," DCCC spokeswoman Elena Kuhn said. "Instead of coming together and working to find common-sense solutions for Michigan, time and again Barrett chose to bolster his partisan credentials and stand up for his special interest backers while hard-working families paid the price."

The district lines for the next decade are still being finalized by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. But the panel's plans feature a Lansing-based congressional district.

Slotkin, a two-term centrist from Holly, has been preparing to run in the Lansing area district. The Democratic incumbent currently represents Lansing in the U.S. House but doesn't live in the district being crafted by the redistricting commission.

Slotkin is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who served three tours in Iraq and went on to serve in intelligence and defense posts during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She grew up in Oakland County, moving back to her family’s farm in Holly in 2017 and running for office.

After serving two terms in the state House, Barrett was elected to the state Senate in 2018. All of his state-level contests have been competitive campaigns. He unseated an incumbent Democrat to win a state House seat in 2014.

His current Senate district features Clinton County, Eaton County, Shiawasee County and a portion of Ingham County.

Barrett joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school and has continued his service for 20 years, according to his Senate biography. He has served overseas in Iraq, Kuwait, Guantanamo Bay and South Korea and has deployed as a veteran of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He continued to serve in the Michigan Army National Guard and logged more than 1,000 hours as a helicopter pilot.

The GOP lawmaker has been a vocal critic of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration and her handling of the COVID-19.

Republican Paul Junge, who unsuccessfully challenged Slotkin, losing by 4 percentage points in 2020, has said he "fully" expects to run again in 2022.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.