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Michigan: Lots of Races to Watch; Will There Be a Surprise?

Shira Toeplitz/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democrats expect Rep. Gary Peters, seen here campaigning door-to-door in the Detroit-based 14th district, to defeat his opponent in the Democratic Member-vs.-Member primary.

The Wolverine State lives up to its tradition of feisty primaries today with an important Senate contest and several House races to watch.

The races echo prevalent themes in GOP primary battles throughout the country: the proliferation of third-party spending, upstart tea party challengers and incumbency as both a pro and a con. Additionally, the politics of race and the state’s devastated economy loom large in two House districts around downtown Detroit.

Republicans controlled the redraw of the Congressional map in Michigan, which lost a House seat because of reapportionment. The GOP used the power of the pen to solidify its seats gained in 2010, plus reconstruct the Detroit-area House seats.

The new boundaries paved the way for the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus to face the toughest primary of his career, as well as pit two junior House Members against each other.

Polls close at 8 p.m. EST in most of the Wolverine State, according to the Michigan secretary of state’s office. Some of the precincts in the state’s Upper Peninsula will close at 9 p.m. EST. Here are the races worth watching tonight:


Republicans view former Rep. Pete Hoekstra as the favorite to win the GOP nomination today over his top competitor, charter schools executive Clark Durant. The winner faces Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) this November in a race Roll Call rates as Likely Democratic.

Hoekstra initially stumbled over his campaign’s racially insensitive Super Bowl spot. Even though voters are still familiar with the fallout of this ad, it wasn’t enough to doom his primary candidacy.

Hoekstra’s geographical advantage is more significant: He hails from western Michigan, an area rich with Republican voters. But all over the state, Hoekstra is better known among Republicans from his failed gubernatorial bid last cycle.

Durant has no comparable geographical base. Instead, he has commanded support from the lion’s share of national conservative players such as FreedomWorks and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). But a couple of other minor candidates split the anti-Hoekstra vote, diminishing Durant’s chances.

Hoekstra led Durant 51 percent to 27 percent in a late July EPIC-MRA poll.

Hoekstra’s margin will probably not be that large. Durant saved significant resources for the final two weeks of the race, plus a super PAC supported him with almost $700,000 in additional independent expenditures.

Nonetheless, Republicans will be surprised tonight if Hoekstra is not their nominee.


3rd District

An under-the-radar Democratic primary for this central Michigan seat turned into a ruthless, expensive and ideological battle between former state Rep. Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas, an aide to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).

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