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Past of 11th Congressional District Lingers While Future Hangs In Balance

As WDET examines elections throughout Southeast Michigan, Annamarie Sysling takes a look at the candidates running in the 11th District.  Voters in the area —which includes Livonia, Novi, Troy and Birmingham— must choose between a Republican incumbent, a former Congressman, a software engineer and a surgeon. But, in order to understand what’s happening now in the race to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, we have to go back a few years. That’s when longtime Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter was part of a scandal that ultimately led to his resignation. Democrat David Curson filled a special six-week term in the district. Then in 2012, Republican Kerry Bentivolio was elected. 

As all of these changes were happening, the district was also redrawn—changing it from mostly Democratic to majority Republican. After serving one term, Bentivolio ran for re-election in 2014, but was defeated by Republican businessman David Trott. Now as the incumbent, Trott still points to his background in business as a reason district voters should re-elect him to represent their best interests.
 
Wiki Commons
 
“My background gives me an appreciation for all the small businesses, because all my businesses were small at one time, and the risk people take, and how hard they work and, frankly, today and in today’s environment, how hard it is for a small business to be successful and to be a job creator,” says Trott.
 
Trott says he’s excited about the idea of serving a second term with a different president. Trott says he isn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of a Trump or Clinton presidency, even though he did publicly endorse Donald Trump in May. “I candidly don’t think either party nominated the best people, but I’m focused on my race and the presidential election is going to play out shortly and I look forward to going back and working on problems for people in my district. I sure couldn’t control the nomination process for our party,” says Trott.
 
If politicians could control such things, Trott likely wouldn’t have ever made it to Washington —at least not if Kerry Bentivolio had his way. Bentivolio lost to Trott in the 2014 GOP primary. After the defeat, the one-term congressman faced some financial challenges, filed for bankruptcy and then joined the Libertarian party. Earlier this year, the Milford resident attempted to run as Vice President on the Libertarian ticket. But since then, he’s left the party and is now running as an Independent congressional candidate. He says after having served in the military twice, improving care for veterans is one of his priorities. 
 
Wiki Commons
 

You know I’m a veteran of Vietnam and Iraq and when I came home from Iraq, I was medevaced. I’m a disabled veteran with a 70 percent rating, and 11 months after I submitted my application they called me up and said they had lost my medical records,” says Bentivolio.

 
 

Bentivolio, a former reindeer rancher and English teacher, says it’s this first-hand experience with incompetence by the Veterans Administration that motivates him to want to make a difference through serving another term in Congress. Another of Bentivolio’s important issues is illegal immigration. He says he wants to crack down, even though he values the diversity that Green Card holders bring to this country. “You know if you can go out there and treat people as human beings, it doesn’t matter where they come from. You know, I believe that the reason this country is the greatest country in the world is because of the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity,” says Bentivolio. 

 

One candidate who says he understands the role of diversity better than most is Anil Kumar— a Bloomfield Township-based urologist—who is, himself, an immigrant. “There are at least 20,000 citizens in the district that are of South Asian origin and since I am from India, I understand their culture, and so I would be very well versed with the issues that these minorities have, but my impetus is also on integration of the minorities,” says Kumar.

Kumar is the Chief of Surgery at Crittendon Hospital in Rochester Hills, a founding partner at Kumar Surgical Center and a clinical faculty member at Michigan State University. He has never held political office. Kumar says even though finding a solution to crippling student loan debt is a big concern for him, the first thing he would tackle —if elected—  is health care reform for veterans and seniors.

Anil Kumar Campaign

They deserve it, they have paid into our system all their lives by their hard work and it is our duty to make sure that our seniors get the best healthcare and that no veteran is jobless, homeless or helpless,” says Kumar. 

 
 
Kumar says that since he has a background in healthcare, he’s been a first-hand witness to waste and abuse of resources in that sector. He says some of these inefficiencies could be eliminated by having more physicians serve in Congress, and applying their knowledge of the healthcare system to legislation.
 
The fourth candidate in the 11th Congressional District race is Libertarian Jonathan Ray Osment, a software engineer. He says his priorities include greater personal freedom for citizens and political reform.
 
Jonathan Ray Osment
 

 ”You see this revolving door of politicians, you have politicians that are not exactly representative of people anymore,” says Osment. 

 

 Osment says the country’s political system is flawed, but he hopes it can improve by having more regular people —like him— involved in politics. “There is still time to change the current political structure, and I feel like by electing normal people that’s the way we’re going to go about it and that’s what’s going to make us strong again,” he says.

 
 In a district of more than 700,000, residents must decide with whom they most identify. While political analysts say the district leans Republican, in a year defined by political outsiders, it’s anyone’s game. Click here to see more of WDET’s coverage of the 11th District

Image credit: Wiki Commons/Kumar Campaign

Aired on: Morning Edition
About the Author

Anna Sysling

Reporter, Producer and WDET’s Weekend Edition Anchor

Lifelong resident of Metro Detroit and a huge public radio nerd. I work in Production and Programming at WDET.

annamarie.sysling@wdet.org   Follow @asysling

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