District 8: Rep. Bishop wins re-election over Shkreli

Jonathan Oosting and Keith Laing
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop has won re-election in Michigan's 8th Congressional and is poised to serve a second two-year term in Washington D.C.

Democratic challenger Suzanna Shkreli conceded the race late Tuesday as Bishop opened up a decisive lead in partial returns. With 222 of 204 precincts reporting, the Rochester Hills Republican was winning 58 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Shkreli.

U.S. Rep Mike Bishop

“It’s been a long, crazy, uphill, downhill roller coaster of a race,” Bishop told The Detroit News. “I didn’t expect it to go in some of the directions it went, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to serve two more years.”

The race had proved more competitive than observers originally expected. Bishop was considered a near lock for re-election after actress Melissa Gilbert announced in May that she was withdrawing from the race for medical reasons, leaving Democrats scrambling to find a replacement.

Enter Shkreli, a 29-year-old Macomb County prosecutor and political newcomer. The Clarkston resident joined the race in July and quickly mounted an aggressive campaign, out-raising Bishop in the final four months of the race and running a series of ads attacking the incumbent and linking him to controversial comments by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Bishop said he’d “never been part of a race" like this one, but the political veteran said his first two years in Congress allowed him to build upon the reputation he had already established in the community.

“People know me, and I think they trust me. That makes a difference," Bishop said.

While Shkreli proved a capable fundraiser, Bishop’s head start left him with a decided cash advantage. He used his sizeable warchest to outspend Shkreli on television ads down the stretch, and an outside group also poured late money into the race to help the first-term Rochester Republican retain his seat.

The American Action Network, dedicated to helping the GOP retain their majority in the House, reported spending more than $700,000 on Shkreli attack ads in the final three weeks of the election.

Bishop, 49, spent a decade in the state Legislature and was Senate majority leader until term limits forced him from office at the end of 2010.

During his first term in Congress, he has sponsored three resolutions and two bills, including a bipartisan measure signed into law that extended a low-interest loan program for college students with exceptional financial need.

Shkreli joined the Michigan bar in 2011 after graduating from Cooley Law School and has worked in the Macomb County prosecutor’s office for five years. Late last year, she said she began working in the child protection unit, which handles abuse and sexual assault crimes against youths.

“For the past four months I’ve had the privilege of traveling across Michigan’s 8th District to talk with folks and hear their stories and how I could fight for them in Congress,” Shkreli said in a statement.

“This campaign has always been about fighting for an agenda that that will push Michigan’s middle-class families forward. Although we fell short today, this journey does not end. I look forward to continuing the fight for middle-class families to create good-paying jobs, protect Social Security and Medicare, and rein in the cost of tuition.”

Rod Shelton of Howell, who works as a realtor, said he voted for Bishop because “his beliefs and stuff sort of line up with mine.”

“The less that we have government involved, the better. It seems like everything they touch they mess up,” said Shelton, 57, who described himself as a conservative businessman and also voted for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Jennifer Houghtaling of Howell, an occupational therapy assistant, voted for Shkreli.“I like that she’s worked as a prosecutor, on sex crimes and protecting children and that sort of thing,” she said.

Amanda Denny of Lansing, a clinical scientist at Sparrow Hospital, also voted for Shkreli and said she thought the newcomer would work better with Clinton, who she picked for president.

“I’m not a very political person, but it seems like the last four years Republicans kind of put the government at a standstill,” said Denny. “I thought if I put a Democrat in the White House, she’s going to need some support from other Democrats.”

Val Martin of Howell who owns a tree service company and says he’s been a Republican all his life, voted for Bishop. “He’s straight like an arrow, that’s why I like him,” said Martin, 62.

Shkreli was seeking to become the first Albanian-American woman in Congress and the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. House. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, was 30 when she took office in 2015.

Shkreli made senior benefits a pillar of her campaign, attacking Bishop for voting for a budget that would have begun partial privatization of Medicare and comments about offering younger people an option to direct a portion of their Social Security tax into retirement.

Bishop accused her of distorting his record, saying he wanted to “preserve, protect and strengthen” both programs.

Both candidates agreed the Affordable Care Act has problems. Shkreli said she wanted to fix it, while Bishop has voted to repeal Obamacare and offered support for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” replacement ideas.