Bergman defeats Morgan in 1st House District

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
U.S. Rep Jack Bergman, R-Watermeet

Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman defeated Democrat Matt Morgan to win a second term representing Michigan's 1st District that comprises northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. 

Both former Marine officers, Bergman of Watermeet received 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Morgan of Traverse City in the 1st District contest, with all of precincts reporting unofficial results.

Bergman, a retired three-star general, has rarely split with President Donald Trump, embracing his tariffs, border wall and the GOP tax reform bill. He wants to repeal the federal health care law and scale back regulations.

Morgan, an Iraq veteran and political newcomer, campaigned on single-payer universal health care, infrastructure upgrades and immigration reform. He says Trump's tax reform has had no "meaningful" effect on worker wages.

In contrast to 2016, the contest has garnered little interest from outside groups or either party. Most handicappers rated the district as a "solid" or "likely" Republican win. Trump clinched the district by 21 percentage points in 2016.

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The district has always elected Yoopers to represent them in Congress, rather than someone from the lower peninsula like Morgan. 

Matt Morgan is running for U.S. Congress in Michigan's 1st District

Morgan ran a successful write-in effort across the 32-county district in the August primary, garnering 30,000 votes after getting kicked off the ballot for a technical deficiency. He needed 3,570 certified write-ins to qualify.

Morgan raised more money than Bergman last quarter, but the incumbent has brought in slightly more overall this cycle — $1.32 million to Morgan's $1.23 million. Bergman also held a cash edge as of Oct. 17 with $180,720 in the bank to Morgan's $131,360.  

Bergman has said he has gotten things done for the district, including lobbying for the construction of a new lock in the Soo Locks. 

The congressman was one of three Michigan GOP House members who lobbied President Donald Trump about the need for modernizing the Soo Locks during a late April drive from Selfridge Air Force Base to a rally in Macomb County.

The president unexpectedly embraced the Soo Locks, helping to result in congressional authorization for $922 million in funding but still requiring an appropriation of money.

Morgan has argued he can overcome the Trump factor because voters place more importance on "having a relationship with their congressman."

An incumbent hasn't lost the district since 1966, with the seat only changing hands when a lawmaker retires, according to Bill Ballenger, a former GOP state lawmaker and longtime observer of Michigan politics.

Morgan, 47, retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel after more than 20 years, spending his last four years in service as director of public affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command out of Norfolk, Virginia.

Morgan previously served as a strategic communications officer in the office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, he said.

He spent 18 months on the ground in Iraq, in addition to time in the Horn of Africa, he said.

He and wife Angie returned to her native Michigan in 2013 to raise their family. He worked as an independent writer and film consultant, advising on films such as “American Sniper” and “Arrival.”

Morgan's campaign has the backing of labor groups and endorsements from Stupak, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

Bergman, 71, flew a helicopter in the Vietnam War and later worked as a commercial airline pilot for Northwest. He spent 40 years in the Marines, commanding the Marine Forces Reserve at his retirement in 2009.

Bergman sits on the Veterans Affairs, Budget and Natural Resources committees and served as president of the freshman class, among whom he fostered a "bipartisan atmosphere," he said.

He counts among his top achievements passage of a bill to reform the VA's troubled Choice Program by changing how the VA pays for private care and expanding the caregiver program.