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Michigan’s 7th District to be competitive due to an open seat

The race for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District in 2024 is becoming more competitive after Rep. Elissa Slotkin announced she is running for the U.S. Senate. The move follows Sen. Debbie Stabenow's announcement in January that she would not be seeking a fifth term.

The Democratic congresswoman is known for winning three close elections to the House of Representatives. She defeated former Republican state Senator Tom Barrett by about 5% in November, overperforming President Joe Biden’s margins in mid-Michigan.

Part of Slotkin's pitch has been an ability to push bipartisan initiatives and gain crossover support from Republican and independent voters. Her shift to running for Senate means the Democratic candidate for the district may have to work harder to introduce themselves voters.

Michigan State University political scientist Matt Grossmann said the congresswoman’s decision to vacate the seat and pursue statewide office makes the 7th District a high-profile target.

“The decline of Elissa Slotkin’s personal vote, and a general incumbency effect decline could make the district far more competitive," Grossmann said. "I think probably it's going to start at 50-50 on most people’s lists.”

Grossmann expects there to be a competitive Democratic primary. Both Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor have expressed interest in running for the seat.

Former Republican state Senator Tom Barrett is also weighing a second bid for the district.

Jason Roe, a campaign strategist for Barrett, said many community members are encouraging the Charlotte Republican to run for the seat again.

“The outpouring of support from business leaders, community leaders in the 7th District and in mid-Michigan is a very encouraging sign,” he said.

Roe called Slotkin "a unique candidate" for her ability to fundraise and her perception as a centrist. He added Barrett is evaluating his potential Democratic opponents who would be less experienced at fundraising and winning over voters.

"The names that are being proposed don't sound like names that fit the values of the 7th District broadly," Roe said. "They're far more progressive candidates."

2024's election will also include a race for President that is likely to influence the dynamics in the 7th District.

Grossmann said Democrats may do better in the district compared to the 2022 election because voters tend to vote against the party in power in the midterms. But he added a national swing could influence the direction of the district.

"If Joe Biden is on his way to losing...this district could easily be an expected Republican seat," Grossmann added.

Roe says Barrett will decide whether he’ll run for the seat in the coming weeks.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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