Democrats add Kildee to program that bolsters vulnerable incumbents

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — National Democrats added U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee's seat to their program that aims to protect vulnerable incumbent Democrats in the House and said they aim to target the seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer in the midterm elections. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee updated its Frontline Program this week as a result of redistricting. The DCCC added Kildee and kept on the list U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, who is running for reelection in a new Lansing-based district. Thirty-two Democratic incumbents are part of the program.

The DCCC removed from the Frontline Program U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Waterford Township, as she's now running for reelection in the 11th District that's considered a safe Democratic seat. Stevens is facing a primary against U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township. 

"Frontline House Democrats head into November with a record of delivering for the American people by fighting to end this pandemic, rebooting our economy, and putting millions of Americans to work rebuilding America,” DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement.

“Across the country, Republicans will have to defend their extremist agenda that just doesn’t work for American families.” 

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, second from left, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 24, 2020.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has not yet announced its Patriot Program for vulnerable Republican incumbents. 

The DCCC on Thursday announced that the new 3rd District in west Michigan is among 38 GOP-held or open seats that it's targeting this fall. The group said it views the new 3rd, which covers the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon areas, as trending toward Democrats and noted Meijer's challenge by John Gibbs, a Republican who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Democrat Hillary Scholten of Grand Rapids has spoken with the DCCC and is expected to be a contender. In 2020, she lost to Meijer in the old 3rd District 47% to 53% when the seat was open due to Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash's retirement. 

Jeff Winston, Democratic chairman of the congressional district, said a Democrat will have a "fair shot" at the newly drawn seat. 

"After decades, upon decades of just horrible partisan gerrymandering, the Citizens Redistricting Commission did a really good job. In our particular case for the 3rd Congressional, it made it way more competitive," Winston said.

"On a level playing field, this is this is where the rubber hits the road. Our candidates are better, our message is better. Let the voters decide in a fair way, and Democrats will be victorious." 

Rep. Peter Meijer

The DCCC is also targeting the open battleground seat in new 10th District, which includes parts of Macomb and Oakland counties and is rated "likely" Republican by Cook Political Report. National Republicans are hoping that former Senate nominee John James runs in this swing district, where the Democratic primary field is starting to grow

Trump narrowly won the district in 2020, but Democrats have also been successful there, including Sen. Gary Peters in 2020 and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2018.

Members of the Frontline Program would usually get extra fundraising and organizational help from the party organization, especially as Democrats seek to protect their majority in the House this fall.

The Lansing-based district where Slotkin plans to run is rated a tossup by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Slotkin flipped a GOP seat in 2018 and represents one of just seven Democratic-held districts won by former President Donald Trump in 2020.  She could end up facing state Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte, who launched his congressional campaign late last year.

Kildee of Flint Township chaired the Frontliner Program in a previous cycle. He is running in the new 8th District that includes Flint and the Tri-Cities and which President Joe Biden won by about 2 percentage points. The district is also rated a tossup.

National Republicans are aiming to snag a top-tier candidate to run against Kildee after former state Attorney General Bill Schuette of Midland opted not to run this month. 

"Dan Kildee is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country because of his lockstep support for Nancy Pelosi’s socialist agenda," National Republican Campaign Committee Mike Berg said. "The Pelosi-Kildee agenda has led to closed schools, rising prices and skyrocketing crime.”

At least one Republican has jumped into the race already — Paul Junge of Brighton said this month said he intends to move to Genesee County to run. Junge ran for Congress in the 11th District in 2020 and lost to Stevens. 

Kildee was reelected in 2020 54%-42% over former state Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township.