Junge wins Michigan GOP 8th District primary for Congress, takes on Kildee

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Paul Junge, a former news anchor, lawyer and Trump administration employee, defeated two Republican challengers in the 8th Congressional District primary on Tuesday.

He will take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township in a district that is viewed by Republicans as favorable to them in the November general election because of redistricting. The new 8th District is considered one of the most competitive districts in the state and nationwide, encompassing portions of Bay, Midland, Saginaw and Genesee counties.

On Tuesday, Junge won about 53.7% of the votes cast in a race against businessman and GOP activist Matt Seely and businesswoman Candice Miller. 

Seely finished a distant second with 23.6%, followed by Miller capturing 22.7% of the vote. Junge declared victory in a press release shortly after 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Miller is a local businesswoman with no relation to the former Macomb County congresswoman and Michigan secretary of state with the same name. 

"We will move in the right direction again by empowering Michigan families and small businesses rather than letting liberal politician Dan Kildee continue to damage our economy and family budgets," Junge said in the release.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement Tuesday night framing the upcoming race between Junge and Kildee as one between "a lifelong mid-Michigander and a son of Flint" and "an out-of-towner."

"Mid-Michiganders know they can count on Dan Kildee to serve their district with one mission in mind: delivering results for the community he calls home," DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-New York, said in a statement.

Junge is making his second bid for Congress after losing to Democrat U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Lansing in 2020 by less than 4 percentage points. He said he wants to promote limited government and protect free enterprise.

Seely ran for Congress for the first time to bring jobs back to manufacturing communities. Miller said in a press release that her campaign was focused on cutting government spending and providing quality education "free from indoctrination."

Both Junge and Seely said tackling inflation and lowering gas prices are their top priorities if elected. 

All three are supporters of former President Donald Trump, and both Junge and Seely have sought his endorsement, though Trump has not put his support behind either candidate.

Analysts said a GOP challenger will face an uphill climb to beat Kildee, who benefits from long-term name recognition and significantly more money than any of the challengers. 

Junge has spent just under $883,000 so far this cycle, as of the last campaign finance report submitted July 13, and Seely has spent about $90,000. Kildee, who does not have a primary challenger, has already spent about $1.3 million.

Junge, 55, was born in Ann Arbor and went to high school and college in California. He worked as a former prosecutor and TV news anchor before moving to Washington, D.C. to work as investigative counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He has also worked in his family business, All Star Maintenance, which maintains military housing. He joined Trump's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in external affairs in 2018 before running against Slotkin in 2020. 

Junge said his priority if elected will be to bring down inflation. He does not believe unsubstantiated claims that Trump won the 2020 election, but said he wishes officials did more to address public concerns and improve confidence in elections.

Seely, 58, owns a Detroit-based manufacturing company that builds custom parts for the construction and material-handling industries. He formerly was a city councilman in Grosse Pointe Shores and has helped organize protests against coronavirus safety measures. 

He said he want to create jobs by advocating for innovative manufacturing and infrastructure solutions, working with companies to attract them to the area, and curbing government spending.

Seely said he does not believe the 2020 presidential election was fairly decided. Both Junge and Seely say they support the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade but would not seek a federal ban on abortions, instead leaving each state to shape their abortion policies.

Miller did not respond to a request for an interview but provided a press release announcing her campaign. It said she wants to improve infrastructure and stop "governmental mandates."

The future generation "is taught to hate America, our freedoms are being threatened, and Washington wants to control everything we do," she said in the statement. "I’ve had enough."

Slotkin beat Junge in 2020 by 3.6 percentage points in the old 8th District, representing portions of Oakland, Ingham and Livingston counties, even as Trump won the area by a slim margin. 

The new 8th District was won by President Joe Biden by about 2 percentage points. But in the first midterm election after a new president comes into office, the opposing party often sweeps competitive seats, and the non-partisan Cook Political Report lists the new 8th as a toss-up district. 

rbeggin@detroitnews.com