Battle Builds in Michigan after Thaddeus McCotter Bows Out

In Michigan, the 11th District is an entirely new game.


With five-term incumbent Thaddeus McCotter out of the race, a new slew of candidates are jumping at an unexpected opportunity to win a seat representing Michigan's 11th District in Congress.

Just a week after the Michigan Secretary of State determined that more than 85 percent of McCotter's ballot petition signatures were duplicates or fraudulent, and the Michigan Attorney General launched a formal investigation into allegations of campaign fraud, he announced Saturday he would no longer continue with a write-in campaign.

"One can't clean up a mess multitasking," McCotter said in a statement announcing the end of his campaign. "To those who [are] unhappy at this news, I'm sorry. To those happy at this news, you're welcome."

But the district is one of the state's greatest Republican strongholds. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions has already pledged his support to fend off Democratic challengers to the seat at all costs.

"This district is one of Michigan's strongest Republican seats," Sessions said in a statement. "And I am confident it will be represented by a Republican after November."

Over the weekend, Former state Sen. Loren Bennett announced his intentions to run for the seat as a Republican, but the candidate will launch a write-in campaign as the deadline to get on Aug. 7 primary ballot has passed. [Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

Kerry Bentivolio, a teacher, reindeer raiser, honeybee keeper, Vietnam Veteran and Tea Party enthusiast, suddenly has a surprising advantage as he actually managed to get his name on the ballot. But the candidate's inexperience and limited fundraising prowess (he's only has $58,149 on hand) makes him a vulnerable candidate in the general election.

The candidate's outsider status, however, is what the campaign is hoping to capitalize on.

"it's time for the party to unite behind a constitutional conservative who will go to Washington and take on government spending, promote transparency, and bring real world and military experience to Congress," campaign spokesman John Yob says.

And while Yob says the campaign is taking all Republican write-in campaigns seriously, he argues the obstacles of launching such an operation are tremendous.

"Write-in campaigns are very expensive and rarely succeed," he says.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will likely face off against physician and leading Democratic Candidate Syed Taj.

Taj's campaign also views McCotter's exit as a new opportunity. So far, the campaign's raised more than $200,000, but campaign manager Natalie Mosher says the over the past week, the campaign earned an influx of cash from constituents fed up with the McCotter controversy.

Born and raised in India, Taj immigrated to the United States with his wife in 1982, where he rose to become the Chief of Medicine at Oakwood Hospital in Detroit. Taj bills himself as a Washington outsider who has demonstrated a record of working across the aisle in local government. Taj served as a Canton Township Trustee where he was elected as the only Democrat on the board. During his tenure, Taj helped to lower water costs and property taxes alongside his Republican counterparts.

"This has been a real game changer," Mosher says. "[Taj] has been knocking doors, been making phone calls. People are just hungry for public officials who work collectively and gather consensus."

Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Follow her on Twitter at foxreports.