Voters in redrawn Mid Michigan district will decide if they send Kildee back to Congress

This could be the first time since 1977 that a Kildee doesn’t represent Michigan in Congress.

Rep. Dan Kildee

Rep. Dan Kildee at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.

There’s a familiar name on the November ballot for voters in Mid Michigan’s new 8th Congressional District.

But there’s a chance the “Kildee” seat in Congress might be at risk.

Dan Kildee has been campaigning hard this year, shoring up his support among his traditional Democratic base, including a stop at a Labor Day picnic hosted by union leaders.

Kildee ranks the economy as one of the main issues for Michigan voters going into November’s midterm elections.

“Clearly, there’s always concerns about the economy,” he says. “And so most of my effort, and thankfully we’ve had some results recently, is focused on how do we support the manufacturing and agricultural economy of this area. That’s a big issue.”

Among other things, Kildee touts new federal support for semi-conductor chip manufacturing in Mid Michigan.

Related: Semiconductor manufacturing in Michigan set to get a boost from CHIPS Act

There’s been a Kildee representing this part of Michigan since 1977, starting with Dale Kildee. Dan Kildee succeeded his uncle in 2013.

But that streak is at risk.

The Cook Political Report has labeled the 8th District as a “Democratic toss up,” largely because of redistricting. That’s forcing Kildee to knock on doors in Midland County, part of which is now in the 8th District, and a solidly Republican stronghold.

Abortion is likely to be a key issue in the 8th District race. Kildee backs Democratic efforts in Congress to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

Republican Paul Junge has the endorsement of Right to Life of Michigan. Junge says decisions on regulating abortion should be handled at the state level.

“There will be states, much to my unhappiness, that are going to continue to support unlimited abortion up until birth,” Junge says. “But there will be other states that say, ‘No that’s not okay,’ and I think we should in this kind of laboratory of democracy let the states work those things out.” [Editor’s note: Junge’s claim regarding “unlimited abortion up until birth” lacks context. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortions performed after 21 weeks accounted for roughly 1 percent of all procedures reported in the U.S. in 2019. The most common reasons for such abortions are medical concerns (such as fetal anomalies or when the pregnant person’s life is in danger) or barriers to care that cause delays in getting an abortion (such as a lack of insurance or transportation to an abortion provider). Most states restrict abortion to some degree (ranging from a total ban to fetal viability), and every one of those states allows exceptions to save the mother’s life. Six states (Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont), Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have no gestational limits on abortion. Very little data exist on the number of abortions performed between 26 weeks and birth.]

Junge, a former TV news anchor and government official, is making his second run for Congress. Two years ago, he ran and lost in a different part of the state.

Junge says his supporters see this election as a referendum — not just on Dan Kildee — but Democratic leadership in Washington.

“General uneasiness and concern about the direction of the economy and in the general direction in the country,” states Junge. “A real feeling that their voices aren’t being heard. A real feeling that we really don’t have a competent  leadership. Not just in Congress but in the White House.”

Libertarian Party candidate David Canny gives an unexpected answer when asked why he wants to be in Congress.

“I don’t want to be in Congress,” Canny reveals. “The last place in the world that I want to be is in Washington D.C.”

Canny says he’s running to promote libertarian policies, including opposing federal gun control and climate change proposals.

A fourth candidate on the ballot, the Working Class Party’s Kathy Goodwin, is making her third run to represent the part of Mid Michigan where she grew up, but no longer is a resident of.

Paul Rozycki is an emeritus political science professor at Mott Community College in Flint. He’s been an observer of local politics in Genesee County for more than half a century. He says Dan Kildee may lose his seat because of redistricting — and Kildee’s been running all year like he’s knows it.

“He’s always had Genesee County, Flint, UAW and all that,” Rozycki says. “But when I noticed an ad where Dan Kildee was with a farmer talking about what he’s done for farmers, that was a totally different kind of angle, but it does represent that change in his district.”

For his part, Kildee is not complaining about the more competitively drawn district that he finds himself running in.

“I’m pretty philosophical about it, in the sense that this district makes sense as a district,” Kildee says. “Whether the people choose me to be their voice is up to them.”

Voters in the redrawn 8th District will decide on November 8.

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