Former state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) on Monday morning announced his run for Congress in 2024, following a formal campaign announcement from former state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) on Sunday night.
Hertel and Barrett are each seeking their respective party’s nomination to represent Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, a swing seat in mid-Michigan.
While announcing his candidacy at the Lansing United Association Local 333, Hertel discussed bipartisanship while highlighting Democratic successes from earlier this year, including repealing Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortion, expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ+ people, and passing multiple measures aimed at improving gun safety.
“People are tired of Republicans and Democrats fighting in Washington. All they want us to do is sit down and remember that we work for them,” Hertel said.
The 7th District seat is held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), who announced this year she would be running for U.S. Senate in 2024, targeting an open seat previously held by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing).
Barrett previously served two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives between 2015 and 2018 and one term in the state Senate from 2019 to 2022. He unsuccessfully ran against Slotkin in 2022 in an expensive race that totaled more than $26 million in campaign spending.
In a phone interview with the Advance on Monday afternoon, Barrett said he had texted Hertel to congratulate him on his campaign announcement and that he looked forward to seeing him in the district.
“I think there are a tremendous number of differences between the two of us, and the campaign will illustrate that,” Barrett said “At the end of the day, we are very familiar with one another. That comes with its strengths as well as its drawbacks.”
Barrett’s campaign strategist, Jason Roe, told the Lansing State Journal in February that Barrett would run again in 2024, prior to the official announcement on Sunday.
Hertel served in the state Senate from 2015 to 2022. After leaving the Senate due to term limits, He served as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legislative director before resigning at the end of June, prompting speculation that he would launch a congressional campaign.
“My friend Curtis Hertel is running for my seat in Congress. He is a dedicated public servant, and the strong fighter we need to defend this seat,” Slotkin said.
“I’m supporting him because I know he’s a relentless fighter for Michigan. He’s in it to win, and I hope you’ll chip in today to help keep Michigan’s 7th blue,” she said, sharing a link to Hertel’s fundraising page.
Prior to his Monday morning announcement, Hertel had opened a page on ActBlue, a fundraising website used by Democratic candidates and other left-leaning organizations.
State Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) was present for Hertel’s campaign event, later posting a photo of the event on Twitter.
“Proud to be at the kick-off for my friend, [Curtis Hertel Jr.] for Congress,” Singh said.
In his announcement, Hertel also focused on issues like taxes, prescription drug prices, bringing jobs back to the U.S. and defending civil rights.
”I believe in lower taxes for working people. I believe in prescription drug relief for all of our citizens. I believe we need to invest in our people to bring jobs home,” Hertel said.
“We need to make sure everyday people are represented in Washington, more than corporations and big special interests. And I believe we need to protect our most basic civil rights like the right to organize, the right to vote and the right to make private medical decisions without government interference,” Hertel said.
When asked about potentially facing Barrett — his former Senate colleague — in the general election, Hertel cited his history of bipartisan efforts.
“I worked with a lot of Republicans in order to do big things like bringing jobs here to Lansing,” Hertel said. “I think people have a choice in this race. If they want somebody who’s going to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done with mid-Michigan families, we have a strong record of doing that in the past.”
When asked about his priorities for 2024 Barrett outlined to the Advance his four pillars of security, focusing on national security, border security, neighborhood security — or crime prevention — and economic security.
Barrett shared concerns about U.S. relations with China, and spoke out against providing state funding for the Gotion Inc. battery plant near Big Rapids in West Michigan.
“I can assure you that if the Chinese government is involved, then it is not in the best interest of Americans to be participating,” Barrett said.
While Republicans have claimed the Gotion battery plant project is a front for the Chinese Communist Party, as its parent company, Guoxuan High-Tech Co., is based in China, the company has pushed back against these claims.
“Despite what any current politicians might say, there is no communist plot within Gotion,” said Chuck Thelen, the company’s vice president for North American operations.
Barrett also shared concerns about fentanyl and human trafficking at the southern border, crime, and economic security for American families.
“I think that the lack of a voice for people in families like mine are really what’s motivating me to step up and try and do this. I’m a regular guy. I’ve got four kids, live in a small town outside of Lansing,” Barrett said.
“I think that there’s been a lack of consideration and voice for people, families like mine, in Washington. I can’t sit by and watch it, you know, get worse. I have to do my best to step up and do my part,” he said.