Explainer: One of the Country’s Most Competitive Congressional Races is Coming to Michigan

By Kyle Kaminski

June 5, 2023

About 700,000 Mid-Michigan voters could play a crucial role in determining political control of US Congress next year as US Rep. Elissa Slotkin looks to jump chambers to the US Senate in 2024.

LANSING—Next year, about 700,000 Michiganders living in the Greater Lansing area will have a decision to make that could determine control of Congress.

US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly)—who is currently in her third term representing Michigan’s 7th Congressional District—is planning a run for the US Senate. And that means her current House seat will be up for grabs at the next General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024. 

With more than 500 days until Election Day, only a few potential candidates have expressed any interest in hitting the campaign trail, and nobody has officially filed to run. But analysts are already painting the congressional race as one of the most competitive matchups in the country.

Here’s the Deal:

Slotkin last November won a third term to represent the state’s 7th Congressional District in the US House, which covers Michiganders living in Clinton, Ingham, Livingston and Shiawassee counties, as well as portions of Eaton, Genesee, and Oakland counties.

(She ended up beating Republican challenger Tom Barrett by about 20,000 votes.)

In January, after serving more than 20 years in the US Senate, Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced that she would retire and “pass the torch” to a “new generation” of leaders in 2024. 

A few weeks later, Slotkin announced plans to run for Stabenow’s soon-to-be vacant seat.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-Michigan) left, talks with Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Lansing. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Whoever voters end up sending to Congress for Slotkin’s current seat will likely play a decisive role in determining the political control of Congress in 2024, and ultimately the future direction of the country. Republican lawmakers currently hold a slim, 222-213 majority in the US House. Democrats will need to hold the seat in their effort to retake the majority.

The 7th District is currently the only Congressional district in Michigan—and only one of only 22 across the country—that The Cook Political Report identifies as a true “toss-up” race, meaning a lot can happen in 500 days, and that it’s still essentially anybody’s guess whether a Democrat or a Republican will be elected to fill the post. The Center for Politics at the University of Virginia also considers the 7th Congressional District to be the only 2024 “toss-up” race in the state. 

And with Democrats needing just five more seats to regain control of the House, political insiders suspect that a lot of eyes will be on Michigan (and its voters) as 2024 approaches.

Who’s Running for US House?

Nobody—at least not officially.

Former term-limited state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing)—now the legislative affairs director for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration—is “strongly considering” a campaign. Sources told the Detroit News that he could announce his bid for Congress as early as next month after helping to negotiate the state’s next budget, though nothing has been made official.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, speaks with reporters in the Senate chamber in 2021. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

During his time in Lansing, Hertel gained a reputation for being an outspoken proponent for Democratic issues in the state Senate. He was also known for his work behind the scenes to negotiate, as well as make zealous public rebukes of Republican ideas that he found repugnant

Hertel’s brother, state Sen. Kevin Hertel, currently serves in the state Senate, as did their father. His wife, Elizabeth, is also director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Other potential Democratic candidates for Slotkin’s former House seat include state Sen. Sarah Anthony and Rep. Angela Witwer, both of whom have expressed some interest in the job. 

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum have also considered launching Congressional campaigns in recent weeks, but both ultimately decided against it. Byrum is now reportedly expected to launch a campaign for secretary of state in 2026. 

On the Republican side, former state Sen. Tom Barrett—who lost to Slotkin by about 5 percentage points last year—is widely expected to make another run for the seat in 2024. No other Republicans have stepped forward as a potential contender for the GOP nomination. 

What About the US Senate?

Slotkin was among the biggest stars of last year’s midterms, handily winning one of the nation’s most expensive elections

She begins the race as the clear favorite, but the field of Democrats vying for the Senate seat has grown in recent weeks to include Pamela Pugh, the president of the state Board of Education; former Detroit state Rep. Leslie Love; businessman Nasser Beydoun; and attorney Zack Burns. 

READ MORE: Five Key Things to Know About US Rep. Elissa Slotkin

On the Republican side, Michael Hoover and Nikki Snyder, another State Board of Education member, are also running for the seat. A GOP victory would have to overcome a long history of losses—Republicans have taken just one of Michigan’s last 15 Senate races, and it was in 1994.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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