Seas’ parting for Curtis Hertel Jr.’s bid for Slotkin’s seat in the U.S. House


It wasn’t an endorsement, but it most definitely wasn’t a punch in the nose either.

At a Livingston County event last week, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin urged attendees to recruit former state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. to run for her 7th Congressional District seat while she runs for the U.S. Senate.

Hertel hasn’t announced for the Democratic nomination in MI-7, which comprises all of Ingham, Clinton, Shiawassee and Livingston counties and parts of Eaton and Oakland. Actually, Hertel is still employed as the governor’s lead legislative lobbyist. By law, he can’t run for office until he gives up that post.

Still, it’s becoming crystal clear that his resignation from the governor’s team is inevitable and that he’ll be the Democrats’ frontrunner to face Republican Tom Barrett next year in what promises to be another competitive Mid-Michigan seat.

Slotkin is too politically calculating to mention Hertel’s name willy-nilly. Clearly, she’s paving the way for him. In today’s Democratic Party, competitive primaries are reserved only for safe Democratic or safe Republican districts.

In districts in which Republicans have a shot at winning, the Dems have done an admirable job of clearing the field. They learned the successful formula a while ago. Having a nominee who is next to broke after a knock-down, drag-out primary isn’t a good way to win a competitive general election.

Look at Slotkin. She hasn’t run in a single competitive primary in her entire political career. She may not run in one next year either. When was the last time outgoing U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow had a competitive primary, or U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, either?

For that matter, when was the last time we had a competitive primary in a Lansing congressional seat? In 2014, when Eric Schertzing lost to Susan Grettenberger in a district that wasn’t drawn well for Democrats.

That was then. This is now. The herd mentality is working for Democrats. I doubt they’ll stop.

Look at what’s going on:

When Slotkin announced her intention to succeed Stabenow in the Senate, we had Democratic congressional possibilities galore. 

Slowly, all of the previously named potential Democratic candidates for this seat have faded away. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum is out, presumably to get herself positioned to run for secretary of state in a few years. 

State Rep. Angela Witwer never really wanted to be in. She kept her name in there as an emergency backup. State Sen. Sarah Anthony is getting comfortable with her Senate Appropriations Committee chair position, which is as sweet of a gig as you’re going to get in Lansing.

State Sen. Sam Singh said fairly early that he wasn’t getting in. He reiterated that last week in a radio interview. State Rep. Julie Brixie was an option in case everyone else took a pass.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor took a real look at the race. He decided he didn’t want to run the city and run for Congress at the same time.

Hertel has what you want out of a political candidate. First, he’s got fire in the belly. He wants to run, and he’ll do what it takes to win. Make fundraising calls for eight hours a day? He’ll do that. Go to meet and greets at county fairs? He’ll do that.

Knock an entire neighborhood of doors in an afternoon? He’ll do that.

Debate Tom Barrett? He’d love to do that.

He has that perfect mix of being a policy-sharp politician who can demagogue an issue all day, if that’s what’s needed. In one breath, he can give a fiery speech. In the next, he can go behind closed doors and cut a deal.

He knows the policy as well, if not better, than his aides. He’s friends with the governor. He’s got political allies all over the place.

All the while, he’s personally likable and relatable.

The Democrats will need Hertel’s entire skill set because Barrett brings a lot of these same qualities to the race, too … except the relationship with the governor, of course.


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