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Gary Peters Taking On Freshman Hansen Clarke in Democratic Battle

CQ Roll Call File Photo

Updated: 9:21 p.m.

Democratic Rep. Gary Peters plans to challenge freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D) in Michigan’s new 14th district, according to local Democrats.

Peters’ decision forces a fight against a fellow Democratic Member in the geographically and economically diverse district around Detroit.

In a brief interview with Roll Call on Wednesday evening, Peters said he’s zeroed in on the 14th district for his re-election campaign but stopped short of confirming his campaign for that seat.

“I’m definitely looking at it very seriously,” he said. “First off, I represented the lion’s share, almost half the district, currently in my Congressional district as well as a state Senator.”

Peters’ re-election plans were uncertain since Republican lawmakers redrew Michigan’s Congressional map earlier this year. They dismantled Peters’ current district, splitting up the territory across a few House districts and effectively forcing the two-term Democrat to run against one of his colleagues in 2012.

On Wednesday afternoon, Michigan Democrats confirmed to Roll Call that Peters plans to challenge Clarke. Peters cautioned that an announcement is coming “soon.”

“The thing that’s most exciting is it’s an opportunity for us, the way the district is structured, to bring the community together in southeast Michigan, from Oakland County to Wayne County,” Peters said. “There’s a divide in Michigan — eight miles — it’s been a divide, a very real divide between communities. This district stretches across that divide, and it’s an opportunity to bring people together and solve problems collectively in southeast Michigan.”

Peters said he has not spoken to Clarke yet about the 14th district, but he plans to “sit down and talk” with him soon. When asked Wednesday night about Peters’ 14th district campaign, Clarke responded to Roll Call, “It’s a free country,” as he rushed into the House floor to vote. 

Michigan media first reported the likely Peters-Clarke matchup Wednesday, citing a Facebook post from former state Rep. LaMar Lemmons (D). “I ran into Congressman Gary Peters yesterday and he told me that he is running for Congress in the new 14th district,” Lemmons wrote on Facebook earlier this week.

Peters spokesman Jared Smith would not confirm the Congressman’s intentions in an e-mail exchange with Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon.

“Congressman Peters has been reaching out to leaders around Metro Detroit to discuss how he can best continue his work in Congress to help create and protect jobs and move our region forward,” Smith wrote.

Peters’ plan to run in the 14th district is the latest move in Michigan’s game of redistricting musical chairs. The state is losing a House seat because of population loss.

Clarke lives in the 13th district, but more of his current Congressional territory lies in the 14th, making it a more favorable seat for his re-election race. He announced in August he would run in the 14th.

Rep. John Conyers (D) lives in the 14th and has not made an official announcement, but Democrats expect him to seek re-election in the 13th district. More of the 24-term Democrat’s district is in the 13th.

Also, Clarke and Peters will probably have company in the 14th district. Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence told Roll Call last week that she plans to run for that seat too.

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