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Candidates Most Likely To Run In MI-8

November 21, 2023

As the well wishes for retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) rolled in Thursday, thoughts immediately shifted to the seat the six-term member of Congress is leaving behind.

The 8th Congressional District is one of the state’s most politically competitive. It’s trending in the Republicans’ direction. Bay City and rural Genesee County outside of Flint have traditionally been a harbor for retired UAW workers and Blue Dog Democrats.

Particularly since the rise of former President Donald Trump, Republicans such as Rep. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City) and David Martin (R-Davison) have found success winning seats traditionally held by Democrats. Trump, himself, only lost this district by 2 points in 2020 and is expected to perform well here, again, if he wins the nomination in 2024.

Kildee defeated Republican Paul Junge in 2022, 53% to 43%, after he and Democrats spent more than $11 million on his success. Junge and Republicans spent around $8 million. In short, anyone interested in this seat will need to raise a substantial amount of money, likely for a primary and a general election.

“Years ago, I dreamed of being in Congress,” said political consultant Dave Forsmark, who has done years of work for Democrats and Republicans in this part of the state. “Today, I wouldn’t take this seat if you gave it to me.

“You’re condemning yourself to 10 years of fundraising and never being home,” he said. “It’s not a life I would choose.”

He added that it would be any candidate’s dream to get 51% of the vote in this seat, 53% if you have the power of incumbency.”

There’s no lack of interest in the seat, however. Below are the candidates most likely to give it a shot:


All But A Guarantee

Rep. Bill G. Schuette (R-Midland) – The son of the area’s former member of Congress, Schuette has become arguably the House Republican caucus’ most forward-facing member, tackling issues like the Hamas attack on Israel and public records disclosure, among several other issues.

At 28, Schuette likely would have benefited from the Kildee announcement happening a few years from now, but his old man won his first seat in Congress at age 31, so . . .

Asked about his interest, Schuette responded, “I’m committed to making sure Mid-Michigan is represented across the ticket by commonsense Republicans who will deliver results to our region.”

Paul Junge – Without question, Junge not only has name ID, but the benefit of winning two previous congressional primaries. With some personal wealth, a congressional playbook and an apparatus in place from 2022, Junge was likely going to run in 2024 even if Kildee was running for reelection. Now, it’s a guarantee.

Martin Blank – The two-time legislative candidate is the only one of the bunch to declare for the seat, but his road to victory will be harder. Blank has yet to win a seat. The physician and former U.S. Army Reserve commander finished fourth in a four-way primary for the state Senate last year. If Blank brings the money and spends it wisely, however, anything can happen.

Maybe . . .

Chris Velasquez – The former Dow Corning executive brought energy to his 2022 state Senate run, but only finished ahead of Blanc in the GOP primary.

Rep. David Martin (R-Davison) – It’s hard to find anyone in the district who doesn’t at least think Martin is a nice guy. His personable demeanor gives him a crossover appeal that Democrats have trouble beating. Congress is a different beast, though, and Martin will need to spend time dialing for dollars as opposed to knocking on doors.

Dave Robertson – The Grand Blanc clerk is a loyal Republican and a campaign grinder. He raises money and has represented various parts of this district at one time or another. A former state legislator, Robertson could definitely do the job. The question, like many of these possibilities, is interest.

Annette Glenn – Does she have the heart to give it another go after losing a fierce competitive general election campaign in 2022 and then losing her husband to cancer earlier this year? If so, she shoots to the top of this list. She has the pro-Trump background and a lot of name recognition from last year.

Not Likely

Rep. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City) – A phenomenal local politician who has contacts throughout MI-8 through his various business enterprises, Republicans could do a lot worse than Beson. The issue is interest. It’s hard to see how this socialite and family man would like working in D.C. Beson could be very successful in a congressional run, but would his heart be in it?

Bill Schuette – It’s possible dad runs instead of son, but the elder Schuette was recruited to run for this seat in 2022 and passed it up, figuring that it was his son’s time to run. It’s hard to see how 2024 will be different, especially since his son has taken to politics like fish to water.

Former Sen. Ken Horn – It’s a hard no for Horn, who said he’s enjoying life out of elected office and living close to home.

Former Sen. Jim Stamas – Ditto.


All But A Guarantee

Former Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich – A legit campaigner who could unify the Democratic Party possibly more than any other candidate, Ananich has built the relationship in the state Senate that could help him mount an immediately credible campaign.

The interest is there. Whether he has the same general election crossover appeal as some of the other candidates is a question, but he’s won competitive primaries before.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson – We had the charismatic rising star as a 2026 gubernatorial candidate, but why not take a congressional run? He instantly neutralizes any Republican messaging on crime, having steered Flint away from chaos during the George Floyd riots of 2020 and improving public safety in historically one of the toughest cities in Michigan.

An inspirational speaker, author and iron man finisher, Swanson has no shortage of confidence.

Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City)  The national Democrats’ dream candidate is the state Democrats’ biggest nightmare. Would the Democrats have majority of the state Senate if MacDonald Rivet wasn’t their nominee in 2022? They don’t want to know.

While she’d be painted as a wild-eyed liberal for her votes on abortion, gun control, and clean energy, she can also say she cut taxes, protected women’s rights and stood up for organized labor. Plus, it’s a free run for her.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley – He told MIRS he’s forming an exploratory committee soon and sounds serious about giving it a hard look. The two-term mayor and former Legislative Black Caucus chair has a lot of accomplishments in Flint he could share – crime is down. Budgets are balanced. Water quality is good. He’s basically stabilized an unstable situation. Unlike seemingly every other mayor in Flint, he not only hasn’t been recalled, he’s been reelected. In Flint, that’s saying something.

Maybe . . .

Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint) – The ambitious legislator has a family name that connects in Genesee County. If he has dreams of Congress, this could be his shot. He’s stuck with basically the same Senate voting record as MacDonald Rivet, though, and would need to find a lane that distinguishes himself from people with a similar profile, like Ananich.

Saginaw County Clerk Vanessa Guerra – She could be the most high-profile candidate from Saginaw if she were to get in, which could be a factor if multiple Genesee County candidates hop into the race. As a county clerk, she has a good position to run from and a record of election reform as a legislator. In general, she’s well-positioned for a run, if the interest is there.

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter


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