MI-08: Former Trump immigration official Paul Junge became the first Republican contender to announce his candidacy for Michigan's 8th District on Friday, following Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee's unexpected decision to retire a day earlier. However, other Republicans appear likely to join the contest, which may be a relief to the GOP given how poorly Junge's race against Kildee went last year.
The 8th is located in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas in central Michigan, and it would have voted just 50-48 for Joe Biden, meaning it should have been one of the GOP's top pickup opportunities last year. But while Junge and national Republicans spent millions trying to oust Kildee, the incumbent won by a surprisingly wide 53-43 margin, which made him one of the top Democratic overperformers in the country compared to Biden's margin.
In that race, Democrats repeatedly hammered Junge over his weak ties to the region that he was seeking to represent, in contrast to the Kildee family's long involvement in politics in the Flint area. While Junge was born in Michigan in 1966, he moved out of state with his family in 1974 and had spent less than a decade of his adult life back in the Wolverine State until returning just before launching a congressional bid for an entirely different district in 2020.
That district was also numbered the 8th before the most recent round of redistricting, but it had zero overlap with the current 8th and was instead located in the Lansing area and part of the Detroit suburbs. Junge lost that race 51-47 to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin even though Donald Trump carried the district by 50-49. The next cycle, Junge moved to the new 8th, where he had never lived before, to unsuccessfully challenge Kildee.
As for possible additional GOP candidates, former state Sen. Dave Robertson has said he's considering running, while state Rep. Bill G. Schuette hasn't ruled out a bid. Schuette is the son of former state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who lost the 2018 governor's race 53-44 to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer; the elder Schutte previously represented part of this area in Congress from 1985 to 1991 when it was in the 10th District.
Inside Elections' Erin Covey reports that both father and son are considering, but there are no direct quotes from either. Former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost a tight 2018 race to succeed the older Schutte for attorney general, is also reportedly eyeing the contest.
However, state Rep. David Martin sounded highly unlikely to run by responding, "You've got to be kidding me," when asked by Gongwer Michigan. Former state Sen. Ken Horn went even further by saying he was "a hard no." The lone Republican who was already running before Kildee called it quits is Army veteran Martin Blank, a trauma surgeon and Saginaw police officer who unsuccessfully ran in a GOP primary for state Senate last year.
On the Democratic side, both Genessee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and former state Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich say they're considering and could decide this week, though Ananich adds that he's "pretty happy" with his current position as CEO of the Greater Flint Health Coalition. Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley says he plans to form an exploratory committee while he decides, but he gave no timeframe.
State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, meanwhile, says she's been urged to run and didn't say no to dropping her longshot Senate bid to campaign for this seat. State Sen. John Cherry also wouldn't rule out running but says that he hadn't had time to think about it yet.
The Detroit News' Craig Mauger mentions two more potential candidates, state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet and Saginaw County Clerk Vanessa Guerrs, though there's no word from either yet. Another name that's come up is American Medical Association Board of Trustees member Bobby Mukkamala, who is a surgeon in Flint. However, Mukkamala instead says he'll continue his effort to become the AMA's next president and would only reconsider running for Congress in the future.