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Slotkin’s run for Senate challenges Democrats’ hopes to retain 7th District

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin’s bid to be Michigan’s next U.S. Senator has thrown a curveball for Democrats plans to win back the House.

The three-term Lansing-area Democrats’ easy win last November for Michigan’s 7th District, which includes Livingston County, gave her enough momentum that her decision to seek Debbie Stabenow’s seat in 2024 has so far scared off any high-profile Republicans to challenge her.

But while that may be good news for Democrats’ efforts to keep a fragile Senate majority, it’s complicating the party’s bid to retake the House next year. The party needs just five seats to reclaim control but there are serious concerns whether anyone but Slotkin can repeat her success in one of the country’s most competitive districts.

“It is sort of a blessing and a curse,” Michigan Democratic strategist Amy Chapman told The Associated Press for a story. Chapman was Barack Obama’s state director during his first presidential campaign in 2008. “Senate Democrats have gotten a good candidate but the curse is, obviously, what do you do about the House district?”

Slotkin’s decision could also complicate Democrats’ efforts to raise money for House races as she is one of the party’s most successful fundraisers, raking in $10 million for her 2022 campaign. However, Slotkin insists she isn’t abandoning the 7th District and is dedicated to keeping it in the Democratic column.

Michigan Republicans already have a candidate to try and take the seat back to the GOP. Former state Senator Tom Barrett, who lost to Slotkin in 2022, plans to run again in 2024. However,  Barrett’s loss by more than 5 percentage points to Slotkin last year makes him less than a certain bet.

Michigan’s 7th District, which was redistricted just before the 2022 midterms, is a blend of seven counties. It encompasses Republican-dominated counties such as Livingston, Clinton and Shiawassee, but also Democratic strongholds like Ingham, home to the state Capitol and Michigan State University. Slotkin’s ability to dominate in Ingham County and pick up just enough swing voters in the red to purple parts of the district has allowed her to win.

However, Michigan Democrats are still searching for a candidate who can do the same. Former state Sen. Curtis Hertel and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum have both been seriously considering a run, but have yet to do so and time is slipping away while Barrett gears up his campaign.

Regardless, Slotkin promised constituents at her Senate campaign kickoff in Lansing last month that her “first responsibility” would be to make sure the 7th District remains in Democratic hands.

That could be a tougher promise to keep in 2024 than in 2022 when Democrats greatly benefited from a highly popular abortion rights ballot initiative that was bitterly opposed by Republicans, much to their electoral chagrin, with historic losses up and down the ballot, giving Democrats complete control of all three of Michigan’s branches of government.

Lansing-based Democratic strategist Adrian Hemond told the AP that next year will be different, with favorability in the presidential election potentially influencing a battleground district with no strong incumbent.

While President Joe Biden won Michigan in 2020, three of the four main counties in Michigan’s 7th District, including Livingston, voted heavily for then-President Donald Trump.

“In some parts of this district, the former president is popular,” Hemond said. “In other parts, he is poison and a turnout driver for Democrats.”



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