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Does Slotkin Announcement Clear the Democratic Field?

March 7, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

Hours after the third-term member of Congress officially threw her hat into the ring, Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest said on the MIRS Monday podcast “the field has essentially been cleared for her on the Democratic side” and Republicans don’t have a top-tier candidate.

One could emerge, he said, but since Republicans have “a wretched track record” in statewide federal elections in Michigan, he doesn’t give a party being run by Kristina Karamo much of a shot to raise the money needed to go up against Slotkin, a “fundraising juggernaut.”

Over the weekend, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) both opted against a run, leaving Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as the only high-profile, elected Democrat to not take their name out of the running for U.S. Senate.

A more left-of-center candidate could primary Slotkin, but Hemond said he’s a “little skeptical” that the funding class would back a progressive Democrat, if it means he or she would have a tougher time winning a statewide general election.

The Democratic nominee has won 15 of the last 16 and 20 of the last 23 U.S. Senate elections in Michigan.

The one potential candidate with resources is author and actor Hill Harper, who moved into one of the old Fisher mansions in Detroit several years ago.

Harper was encouraged to run by Virgie Rollins, the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus. After several years of contributing his money behind the scenes on such issues as the Flint water crisis and the $15-an-hour-minimum wage effort, Harper is showing interest in being more directly involved in politics.

A graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Harper is described as “hyper-smart” and a “perfect” candidate for the Black community given his life success, fame and wealth. One report has Harper’s net worth at $15 million.

A supporter of Harper’s, former Sen. Virgil Smith, said he’d put the odds of the former CSI: New York and The Good Doctor star getting into the race at “50/50.”

On the Republican side, some within the old traditional establishment would like to see former U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer run. U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Romeo) is considering it. But at the moment,  State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder is the only announced candidate, although former Secretary of State and Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) is also looking into it. Former gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley hasn’t ruled it out, yet, either.

With Slotkin off for a statewide race, the conversation immediately shifted to the 7th Congressional race.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum sent out a fundraising letter Monday morning thanking Slotkin for her service and asking recipients “what do you want to see from your next representative in Congress?”

She said mid-Michigan has a proud tradition of having “excellent representation in Congress” with retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) having served in the congressional seat prior to being elected to the Senate. Byrum’s mother, Dianne Byrum, came 123 votes from winning this seat in 2000.

“I simply want to serve the people in the best way that I can,” Barb Byrum wrote. “I am proud of the work that I have done as Ingham County Clerk in a very tumultuous environment. I believe that our democracy deserves to be defended and the people that make it up deserve to have their voices heard.

“Whatever the future holds, I intend to do just that.”

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor changed his profile picture on his political Facebook cover photo to one that reads, “Andy Schor: Real Leadership. Real Results.”

“It’s been a busy day so far and my phone has been ringing all morning about this exciting announcement,” Schor wrote about the Slotkin announcement. “Elissa Slotkin is a fantastic representative for communities in Congress. I have had some really great conversations about the future of this seat and will be taking some time to examine it closely.”

Former Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. said he’s strongly considering the seat. Hertel is currently Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s top lobbyist.

Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Lansing) said she’s been “approached by a lot of people” about a run.

“I’m listening to everybody and I’ll run through everything and make a decision. I love what I’m doing now and I love being seven minutes from home,” Witwer said.

Also on the Democratic side, Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) has been mentioned as a potential candidate.

On the Republican side, the 2022 nominee, former Sen. Tom Barrett plans to seek the seat, according to a statement campaign advisor Jason Roe shared with the Lansing State Journal. He would start a race with $30 million in name ID from 2024.

Barrett was already weighing a second go at the 7th Congressional District before Slotkin started looking at the U.S. Senate. Her decision to bolt makes the choice easier, although an official announcement won’t be made for another few weeks.

McMorrow Tells Morning Joe She Feels She Can Make Bigger Impact In State Legislature

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday morning that while she was approached about running for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2024, she felt like she could make the “biggest impact” by staying in the state legislature.

“In this moment, when nothing is going to get done in Washington, Michigan should be the beacon of hope for the rest of the country that there’s another way forward,” she said.

Gilchrist: I Will Keep Standing Tall For Michigan

In announcing that he would not be seeking the open U.S. Senate seat in 2024, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have “more work to do” and that he looks forward to working with the next U.S. Senator to get that done.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the immediate impact Governor Whitmer and I can have for people in this state,” he tweeted. “It inspires me to do even more. Serving our state in Washington D.C. would be a great opportunity, but instead I will keep standing tall for Michigan, right here at home, as lieutenant governor.”

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