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Election Day: Here are the races to keep an eye on in Michigan

Election polling station sign
Wikimedia | Tom Arthur | CC BY 2.0
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Even though it's a primary, a number of races Tuesday could have a huge impact on the November general election.

Top races to watch:

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, part of a “squad” of first-term liberal women of color, narrowly topped a crowded 2018 primary field to win the 13th District, which includes parts of heavily Democratic Detroit. Now she faces a rematch with her closest challenger then, City Council president Brenda Jones, who finished the term of John Conyers.

Tlaib has a huge financial advantage over Jones. But race and religion are also factors. More than half of the district’s residents are Black, like Jones. Tlaib, of Palestinian descent, is one of the first two female Muslim members of Congress.

AMASH RETIREMENT

The decisions by Reps. Justin Amash and Paul Mitchell to not seek re-election have led eight Republicans to run in the 3rd and 10th districts.

Amash, who has criticized President Donald Trump and supported his impeachment, left the GOP last year. The Republican-leaning seat he has held since 2011 stretches between the Grand Rapids region to Battle Creek.

Top contenders include Iraq War veteran Peter Meijer, whose grandfather helped build the Meijer chain of stores, and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, who formerly worked in corporate communications and journalism. They have loaned their campaigns hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Whoever emerges from the five-way primary will face Democrat Hillary Scholten, a lawyer. Democrats are trying to flip the district this fall along with 17-term Republican Rep. Fred Upton’s 6th District in southwestern Michigan, where state Rep. Jon Hoadley is expected to win the Democratic primary.

MITCHELL’S DEPARTURE

In the 10th District, three GOP candidates are campaigning to succeed Mitchell, who is leaving after two terms in the safe Republican seat that covers the Thumb region and much of Macomb County.

Business executive Lisa McClain has spent more than $1.4 million of her own money — more than $900,000 above the amounts raised by state Rep. Shane Hernandez and retired Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum, who led the Selfridge Air National Guard Base. All support President Donald Trump.

McClain has run ads touting her business credentials and status as a political outsider. Hernandez , who chairs the House budget committee and is endorsed by Mitchell, cites his conservative voting record. Slocum emphasizes his military leadership.

8TH, 11TH DISTRICTS

In 2018, Democrats Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens flipped GOP-held seats and seem positioned to hold them amid Republicans’ recruiting difficulties and Trump’s struggles in the suburbs around Detroit.

In Slotkin’s 8th District, which stretches from Lansing to Oakland County, the GOP contenders include newcomer Paul Junge, who was an immigration official in the Trump administration and has given his campaign $528,000. That is four times what the other three first-time candidates have raised combined.

The 11th District in parts of Oakland and Wayne counties has a five-way GOP primary to see who goes against Stevens. The best-known candidate is former Rep. Kerry Bentivolio. He won the seat in 2012 when the incumbent submitted invalid nominating petitions, only to lose it two years later.

Eric Esshaki, a business attorney and former nurse, is among others running. None has held elective office.

LEGISLATURE

Before the battle for control of the state House intensifies this fall — the GOP has a 58-51 edge — Republicans and Democrats must settle primary fights. The parties’ chances in swing districts can hinge on whether a strong candidate advances. Also, in many open seats, the next lawmaker will essentially be chosen Tuesday because of how districts are drawn.

ABSENTEE BALLOTS

Absentee voting is surging during the virus outbreak. As of Monday, nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots had been cast — breaking the record set in the November 2016 presidential election. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says results may be delayed. Clerks’ ability to handle the influx will be closely watched, particularly amid legislative debate over whether to allow processing of absentee ballots to begin earlier in the November election.

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