Michigan state lawmaker enters crowded US House race as Democrats aim to defend open seat

Michigan state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet on Wednesday became the fifth candidate to enter a competitive race for a U.S. House seat that Democrats are forced to defend without an incumbent due to retirement from Rep. Dan Kildee this year.

Defending the seat could be vital for Democrats in a year when they need to gain at least five seats to gain majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The party will also have to defend a vulnerable seat in central Michigan that was left vacant after U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin opted to run for an open U.S. Senate seat this year.


While the state has become increasingly Democratic in recent years, a contested presidential election and an open Senate race are expected to make Michigan one of the few swing states in 2024. Democrats in Michigan have also turned divided in response to the war in Gaza, with the state’s large Arab-American population vowing not to support those who do not call for a ceasefire.

Kildee, 65, announced in November that he would not seek another reelection to his 8th District seat after he was diagnosed earlier this year with a curable form of cancer that has since been removed. Kildee has represented the Flint area since 2013 after succeeding his uncle, Dale Kildee, who served in Congress for 36 years.

Dan Kildee’s retirement has galvanized a slew of entrants in the race for a seat in the Michigan-based U.S. House of Representatives.

The newly redesigned district extends north from the outskirts of Detroit, covering areas such as Flint, Saginaw and Midland.

State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh and Dan Moilanen, executive director of the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, announced in the weeks after Kildee’s retirement that they will seek the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican front, Paul Junge, a former television host, is set to make another bid for the seat after losing by more than 10 percentage points to Kildee last year. Saginaw trauma surgeon Martin Blank is also seeking the Republican nomination.

McDonald Rivet enters the race just one year into his first four-year term in the Michigan Senate. His victory in a competitive district spanning Midland, Saginaw and Bay City helped Democrats win the state Senate last year and gain control of all levels of government for the first time since 1984.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press before her campaign announcement, McDonald Rivet shared that Kildee had called her, revealing her decision to step aside and encouraging her to run for his seat.

“I came to the conclusion that right now, in this moment when we’re seeing chaos reign over pragmatism in Washington, this is a good time to go to Congress and try to get some of the things done,” he said. McDonald Rivet. .

As the former executive director of the Michigan Head Start Association, McDonald Rivet said she plans to introduce a large package of bills aimed at making child care more accessible and affordable in the next legislative session. If she is elected to Congress, she hopes to continue that work.

“The work I’ve done throughout my career really focuses on Michigan families,” McDonald Rivet said. “As a mother of six, I can really relate to what that means when you start thinking about how much childcare costs.”

Mike Marinella, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign, said in a statement Wednesday that McDonald Rivet is a “career politician who is out of touch with Michigan voters.”


If successful, McDonald Rivet’s campaign could be bittersweet for Michigan Democrats. The party controls the state Senate by just a two-seat margin, and his departure from the seat could set up a tough race in one of the state’s most competitive districts.

The party is also fighting to retain control of the state House, which deadlocked 54-54 in November after two Democrats won mayoral elections in their districts. Special elections for the seats will be held in April.

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