In Michigan political ‘earthquake,’ U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee won’t run again
- Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee, a Democrat, says he will not seek re-election, saying a recent battle with cancer shifted his priorities
- Kildee’s decision gives Republicans a better shot at flipping the swing district, according to political experts
- The race is expected to draw significant national attention — and spending — in the fight for control of Congress
LANSING — Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee announced Thursday he will not seek re-election, a decision he said was spurred by his recent cancer battle — and one that will set up a major political fight for his soon-to-be vacant seat.
The Flint-area Democrat has served in the U.S. House since 2013, when he succeeded his uncle Dale Kildee. He was a national advocate for his hometown during the Flint water crisis and serves in a Congressional leadership role as co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Kildee, 65, said in a statement that, while he has been cancer-free since an April surgery, the diagnosis caused him to reassess his “future and path.” He’ll leave Congress at the end of the year, but is not retiring and is “looking forward to a new chapter continuing to serve Flint and mid-Michigan, just outside of elected office.”
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“As I have said many times: While I’ve been elected to numerous public roles, I’ve never felt like I’ve changed careers, because my job responsibilities have stayed the same: serving, working for, and representing the people who elected me,” Kildee said in the statement. “To my constituents, thank you for the honor and privilege of being your voice and advocate.”
Kildee’s announcement prompted quick praise from fellow Democrats. “No one fights harder for his constituents than Dan Kildee,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. Kildee is a “champion of working class people everywhere,” added Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement.
I have decided to not seek re-election and will leave Congress at the end of my term on January 3, 2025.— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) November 16, 2023
To my constituents and my supporters—thank you. pic.twitter.com/S4IKHv4HmY
It also spurred immediate speculation that Republicans will have a legitimate shot at winning in the 8th Congressional District, which includes Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. Kildee was able to win re-election by 10 percentage points last year despite a redistricting process that made the seat considerably more conservative.
Political prognosticators at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report immediately declared the district “a toss up,” revising a prior prediction that it would “lean Democratic” in 2024. A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee said the GOP is “looking forward to flipping this seat red.”
Kildee's "surprise” announcement is an "earthquake in Michigan politics," said John Sellek, who previously worked on statewide GOP campaigns and is now owner of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs in Lansing.
The six-term Congressman was "rising in Washington leadership circles" because he "can work with anyone and get things done" and did a “great job showing his likable personality" in his winning 2022 re-election campaign, Sellek told Bridge Michigan.
"Michigan has been ground zero for big spending congressional fights and we will now likely have yet another that will lift our state even further into the political spotlight," Sellek said.
Michigan already has an open U.S. Senate seat that is expected to draw significant national attention and spending. U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is among a large list of candidates competing to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, leaving open her 7th Congressional District seat in the Lansing area that is also expected to be highly competitive.
Republicans currently hold an eight-seat majority in the U.S. House while Democrats have a narrow voting edge in the U.S. Senate.
Kildee’s pending departure makes the 8th Congressional District a “tough seat” for Democrats to retain, but the outcome could be heavily influenced by “top of the ticket” in a presidential election year that may see a re-match between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist and co-founder of the Grassroots Midwest firm in Lansing.
“A lot will come down to candidate quality,” Hemond told Bridge. “Neither party is good at nominating moderate candidates these days, but that is what's called for to win the seat.”
The 8th Congressional District includes Genesee, Bay and Saginaw counties, along with portions of Midland County. As redrawn for the 2022 election cycle, the district has a slight Democratic lean. Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by about one percentage point in 2016, while Biden edged out Trump by two percentage points in 2020.
Kildee won re-election by double digits in 2022, in part because he "fit the district well" and had a "blue collar" mentality that appealed to local voters, said Jenell Leonard, a Republican strategist and owner of the Marketing Resource Group.
It will be hard for Democrats to repeat Kildee’s success in 2024, she said, predicting Kildee's announcement will lead to a surge in candidate filings. As of Thursday, only one candidate had filed paperwork to run for the seat: Republican Martin Blank, a surgeon from Saginaw County.
The 8th Congressional District is relatively friendly to Trump, said Leonard, whose firm commissions presidential polls. "You have a lot of blue-collar union workers that are — at best — complacent about Biden.”
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