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Michigan's new districts produce tossup congressional races

Hillary Scholten/John Gibbs composite image from campaign websites
Composite by WGVU
Hillary Scholten/John Gibbs composite image from campaign websites

Michigan's new congressional district map is producing some tight U.S. House races in Tuesday's election. An independent panel redrew the lines after the 2020 census.

Democrats hope to pick up a Michigan congressional seat Tuesday anchored in a longtime GOP stronghold where a little-known Donald Trump supporter ousted an establishment Republican who voted to impeach the former president.

John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official, unseated Rep. Peter Meijer in the Republican primary for Michigan's 3rd District in August. Meijer was among 10 House Republicans who backed Trump's removal after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Democratic nominee in the general election is Hillary Scholten, an immigration attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Meijer in 2020.

Scholten's prospects improved after an independent panel redrew Michigan's House district map following the 2020 census. It still includes Grand Rapids, the state's second-largest city, which hasn't had a Democratic representative since the mid-1970s. Among new additions are Democratic-leaning Muskegon.

Gibbs, who held several positions in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Trump and won his endorsement, described himself as staunchly conservative, opposing abortion rights and favoring a border wall.

He has questioned the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's 2020 victory, posted conspiracy theories on social media and drew criticism for hosting a website as a college student that contended women shouldn't vote or work outside the home. He recently described the site as an “over-the-top” effort to provoke liberals.

Scholten, who worked in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration and for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, emphasized preserving abortion rights and reducing health care costs.

Another tossup race was in Michigan's recrafted and ideologically mixed 7th District, which includes Lansing, the state capital. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat, faced Republican Tom Barrett, a state senator and Army veteran.

Slotkin, a former CIA Middle East analyst seeking her third term, ran on a record that included support for her party's flagship legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions, slashing drug costs and taxing large companies.

Barrett said during a debate he would have opposed the bill as too expensive and inflationary.

Slotkin, an abortion rights supporter, described Barrett as rigidly opposed, with no exceptions for rape victims. Barrett said he was “pro-life” but that the issue was for states, not the federal government, to decide.

Slotkin drew a high-profile endorsement from U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a conservative Republican who lost her own reelection bid in Wyoming's GOP primary after breaking with Trump over the Capitol attack.

The Slotkin-Barrett race was among the most expensive House contests nationwide, with more than $27 million in spending by the campaigns and outside groups.

Redistricting also presented five-term Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee with his toughest challenge. The Republican nominee is Paul Junge, a former prosecutor, news anchor and Trump administration official in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In addition to reliably Democratic Flint and Saginaw, the reconfigured 8th District includes GOP-favoring Midland.

Michigan's newly crafted 10th District, including portions of Detroit metro counties Macomb and Oakland, offers an opening for John James, a Trump-endorsed GOP businessman twice defeated in U.S. Senate races. His opponent is Carl Marlinga, a former prosecutor and retired judge.

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