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10 House Primaries (Besides Schriver, Fouts) Worth Keeping An Eye On

April 30, 2024

Expanded House term limits is giving third-term House members a chance at a fourth term in 2024, and 24 are taking advantage of the opportunity. In all, 103 current House members are running for re-election this summer and fall.

The seven who will not seek another term are: Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Onsted) (term limited), Rep. Andrew Beeler (R-Port Huron) (possible future state Senate candidate), Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Ann Arbor) (possible future state Senate candidate), Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) (possible future AG candidate), Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Osseo) (Supreme Court candidate), Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo) (local judicial candidate).

MIRS counted 34 incumbent House members facing primaries in August. It’s not just Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford), Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park) getting former Warren Mayor Jim Fouts and almost the entire Detroit caucus, per usual.

Below are additional primaries worth keeping an eye on:

1. In the 13th District, former Rep. Richard Steenlandis primarying Rep.-elect Mai Xiong, since the recent work of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission brought areas in which Steenland was popular back into the district.

Steenland, a Democrat, lost in the primary for the 12th House district after parts of Wayne County were drawn in. His previous district, the former 22nd House district, included Roseville and Macomb County. Despite the endorsement of the mayor of Detroit, the freshman legislator lost his primary election in 2022.

Steenland said he watched the commission’s processes closely to see if their work would be advantageous to a re-election campaign, and then waited until he could have a conversation with his entire family present before officially filing for the seat.

It’s not rare for a legislator to have to run for re-election in a seat they just won in a special election or to lose an election after redistricting, but doing both in one year spanning two primaries is the challenge facing Xiong.

2. In the 50th District, Rep. Robert Bezotte (R-Howell), who filed for re-election only yesterday after a previous announcement that he would not run again, is being primaried by three candidates, including Jason Woolford, who he previously endorsed.

In response, Woolford said he was shocked to receive a call from Bezotte only days ago announcing his intention to run again, but Woolford said he has received widespread community support and plans to continue as the Republican front-runner.

“Even Bob Bezotte knows that I’m the right guy to be the candidate, because he’s endorsed me,” Woolford said.

A U.S. Marine who was honorably discharged and went on to become president of non-profit Mission Cry / Christian Resources International, Woolford has also been vice president of sales and marketing for two different southern California marble and granite distribution companies, and received his master’s degree in divinity from a Michigan school.

He ran in the competitive 48th House District in 2022, losing in the general to Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor) with 45.8% of the vote in the 50th District, which had a Republican base of 64.7 percent.

This time around, Woolford is also running against Republicans Kristina Lyke and Dominic Restuccia, the latter a former congressional staffer, Livingston County realtor and political director for gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon during her 2022 General Election run. Lyke, an East Lansing attorney, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020.

3. In the 106th District, Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan)’s only primary opponent in the district that leans nearly 65 percent Republican is Todd Smalenberg, a conservative Republican who was considering running against Cavitt as a third-party candidate if the recall campaign against Cavitt had been successful.

Though he said he did not actively collect signatures as part of the failed recall effort, Smalenberg said he did support the people gathering signatures.

A military man with a 21-year career on active duty and 18 years working for the government in the classified realm, Smalenberg has a master’s degree in national security and a bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies.

4. In the 28thHouse district, Rep. James Desana (R-Carleton)’s son, Joe DeSanafiled to primary Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown), but thecampaign finance information for Joe is the exact same as for Jim. In a call to MIRS, Jim explained that the affidavit his son filed had his own information, but some wires got crossed between the filing and what appears on the Secretary of State’s unofficial candidate listing. The representative said it’s no matter, anyway, since his son is planning on withdrawing.

So why, then, did his son file? Jim said he didn’t want to speak much on the matter, but Joe filed in case his father had a primary opponent filed against him at the last minute. Jim said he and Thompson don’t get along, but he and his son’s intentions were not to put up an opponent against the incumbent.

Thompson is a first-term House member and member of the House Health Policy Committee and the subcommittee on Behavioral Health. The wife, mother, grandmother and nurse is also a small business owner Downriver. After majoring in nursing at Wayne County Community College, Thompson received her nursing license through the Detroit Business Institute in 2012. Outside, specializing in wound care, administrative nursing, long-term acute care and sub-acute care, she has worked as a doula, a professional labor assistant.

5. In the 25th District,newly-elected Rep. Peter Herzberg is facing four primary opponents, including several repeats from his special election opponents back in January.

Democrats Layla Taha and Melandie Hines, who both challenged the former Westland City Council member in the Jan. 30 primary, are now running against him in August.

During the primary, Herzberg received 2,034 votes (35.63 percent), while Taha earned 1,244 votes (21.79 percent) and Hines got 471 votes (8.25 percent). Second-place finisher Andrea Rutkowski, also on Westland City Council, is not running again.

While Hines kept a lower profile while campaigning in the district, according to several sources who opined about the Westland race ahead of the primary, the Wayne-Westland Community Schools trustee stays busy, also serving as a Michigan Association of School Boards representative, city of Westland election chair and self-proclaimed community activist.

Taha is U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit)’s program manager, which may be why she put up an impressive fundraising effort and an active campaign that included door knocking, phone banking, texting and sending out mailers, along with mail paid for by several out-of-state groups in Connecticut and New York.

She previously was endorsed by Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City), the Michigan People’s Campaign, We the People Michigan Action Fund, the Working Families Party, Run for Something, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Rising Voices, Our Revolution Michigan, the 3.14 Action Fund and the Democratic Socialists of America Detroit.

Taha also secured campaign contributions from out-of-state progressive groups and reported more than 35 individual contributions from donors out of state, including the president of the Arab-American Institute. Despite pledging not to accept any corporate donations, she raised $34,589 ahead of the primary and spent $20,092.

Also running in Herzberg’s race are Democrats Salif Kourouma and Lekisha Maxwell.

While Kourouma doesn’t have a very public-facing internet presence, Maxwell is the program coordinator for the Wayne County Department of Public Health, and was appointed to the Westland Housing Commission in April 2022. She serves on the Westland Taylor Corp. and the city’s Municipal Service Bureau board.

Previously, she worked for the University of Michigan for 11 years, most recently as a research administrator.

A Westland resident, Maxwell graduated from Davenport University with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, and also earned her MBA from Walsh College.

6. In the 71st House District,Michael Floyd Clack, vice president of the Flint Community School Board and son of former Reps. Brenda and Floyd Clack, has filed to run against Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint).

Clack is an English and literature teacher at the Flint Genesee Job Corps, and was born and raised in Flint.

Clack is also a child safety advocate and owns a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking, called Dearly Beloved & Cared For, Inc. He graduated from Norfolk State University and has two children, one in college and one in middle school.

In 2020, Clack finished sixth in the special election for the 34th House District that Neeley won, taking 309 votes after he was popped for drunk driving.

7. In the 51st District,Kevin Ziegler,a Milford City Councilmember, has filed to primary Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) in the 51st House district. He’s the senior director of business development at Smile Partners USA, a management services provider to private dental practices in Michigan, Georgia, Illinois and Alabama.

Ziegler is a graduate of Wayne State University.

Maddock, 59, a Milford Republican, is a third-term House member who sits on the House Subcommittee on Housing and a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus. A strong supporter of Donald Trump, Maddock helped recruit several House candidates in the 2022 cycle and connected them with a Trump endorsement. Those candidates’ success rate was mixed. Maddock is the president of the A-1 Bail Bond agency, having been a business owner and bail bondsman for the last 30 years. He’s also a court officer, process server and detective.

Maddock is a founding member of the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the West Oakland Tea Party. He was an elected precinct delegate and a conservative leader in West Oakland County through the 11th Congressional district apparatus within the Michigan Republican Party. While he was in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, Maddock said he left the Capitol area before the riots erupted.

8. In the 107th District,Rep. Neil Friske (R-Charlevoix) is being primaried by two Republicans – Parker Fairbairnand Jackson Emery Ingalls.

Fairbairn is a candidate Friske has faced before, defeating him in the GOP primary with 6,722 votes (42.1 percent) to Fairbairn’s 5,661 votes (35.5 percent).

A Freedom Fund Republican, Fairbairn is a fifth-generation Up North Michigander who received some support from the DeVos family in 2022, and raised $155,936 this election cycle, spending $154,197.96 of it.

Ingalls, on the other hand, does not appear to have previous political experience, though his campaign website is already up and running. The 21-year-old St. Ignace Republican is a basketball referee for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, which he’s done since high school.

His mother has won five state titles as a basketball coach and his father is a former Division II college player. His grandparents were also teachers and coaches.

Four years ago, he was the youngest referee in the Michigan High School Athletic Association as a junior, an accolade he also appears to be fighting for within the state Legislature.

The Grand Valley State University student also officiates high school track and field.

9. In the 71st District, Rep. Brian BeGole (R-Perry) is being primaried by Republican Kevin Rathbun, who he also faced during the 2022 Republican primary.

Begole won that race with 6,369 votes (46 percent), while Rathbun received 5,012 votes (36.2 percent).

Rathbun is a military veteran who began his career in 1998 as a senior in high school and was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

He was transferred to Fort Carson, Colorado in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in 2005, spending the last six years of his military service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he served as a military police officer.

In 2015, he moved back to Michigan to serve as a military recruiter for the Army for several years.

10. Jean Zott, a Shelby Township Republican, is calling for some “fresh energy and new perspective” in filing for the Republican primary against incumbent Rep. Douglas C. Wozniak (R-Shelby Township).

Zott told MIRS in December that she tried to reach Wozniak over the years without a response. She’s worked as a Certified Personal Accountant and got involved in politics when she was involved in a local effort to stop Sylvia Grot, wife of Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, from winning a special election.

Wozniak is a third-term incumbent, first elected in a special election. He is a former Shelby Township Trustee and worked in business litigation, real estate and elder law, wills, trusts, probate and business formations as an attorney. He serves on the Labor Committee and the Families, Children and Seniors Committee as minority vice chair, and sits on the Ethics and Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee.


Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

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