Tom Izzo vies for state representative — but, no, it is not THAT Tom Izzo


Before East Lansing knew of Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo (pronounced IZ-o), Lansing had Tom Izzo (pronounced EYE-zo).

Same name. Different pronounciation. One is nationally renowned. The other is trying his hand in politics.

Tom Izzo (EYE-zo) is a Lansing native running in the 74th state House District held by Rep. Kara Hope, D-Lansing, as a Republican. At 61, he’s lived in Lansing his whole life. He’s been dealing with the name similarity since 1983 when he started receiving telephone calls and videotapes from aspiring Spartan basketball players.

As it turned out, Izzo’s roommate at the time was Ben Tower, an MSU basketball player, so he gave Tower all the tapes and other correspondences to give to assistant coach Izzo.

Since then, the two have met. They traced their genealogy back to Italy, where their ancestors were each master shoemakers who lived three villages apart.

It’s a cool little story. I share it because it’s the only interesting nugget about our state representative races in Lansing I could find Tuesday, the candidate filing deadline for state representative.

As we expected, it’s Tom Barrett, the Republican, versus Curtis Hertel Jr., the Democrat, for Congress. Nobody else filed to run.

Due to the change in our term limits law last year, Hope and state Rep. Julie Brixie can run for a fourth term in the House, and both are doing so. Neither has any primary opposition, and both are running in Democratic seats.

Brixie represents Okemos, parts of East Lansing, Mason and most of rural Ingham County. Hope has Lansing south of the Grand and Red Cedar rivers to Delhi Township.

Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou is running for her second term in the East Lansing/Haslett/Laingsburg seat with no primary opposition. Same with Rep. Emily Dievendorf in the district comprising Lansing north of the Grand River, Grand Ledge and DeWitt. Again, no primary opposition. Token Republican opponent.

Over in Delta Township, House Appropriations Committee Chair Angela Witwer can serve a fourth term, and she’s going for it. The Republicans are bullish, again, on their candidate, local Ohana Sushi restaurant owner Peter Jones. But they’ve liked their chances against Witwer in 2018, 2020 and 2022 and still haven’t been able to knock her off.

And there’s no guarantee that Jones will make it to the general election. Charlotte Pastor Andy Shaver is running for the Republican nomination in the 76th District as well.

The only potential drama could be a little farther out in Eaton County, where Rep. Gina Johnsen is facing a primary opponent named Jon Rocha, who didn’t take care of some outstanding campaign finance issues in 2022 and was kicked off the ballot.

Back in 2022, Rocha had the endorsement of Donald Trump and tried to make a go of it as a write-in. He got 1,232 votes, but Johnsen got 6,099.

Further north in Clinton County, Rep. Graham Filler has opted not to run again, but a former state representative named Tim Kelly from Saginaw Township has put his flag in the ground in that district.

Kelly has new life from the term limits law. He has no primary opponent, and his Democratic opponent is, to be kind, strange.

If you happen to live in Shiawassee County, Rep. Brian BeGole is running again. Same story. No primary. No general election opponent of note.

The last redistricting season carved up the Lansing area like a Democratic pizza pie. All the old mildly competitive state legislative seats disappeared.

With the term limits law letting state representatives run for six terms if they want, the competitive open primaries have dried up, too.

So, that leaves us with Izzo (EYE-zo). How many votes can he get in a 68 percent Democratic seat? Can his name get him to overperform the base? Will he do better than Donald Trump in the 74th House District against Kara Hope?

I’m really digging deep to find drama here, ain’t I?

For the 2024 legislative seats in the Lansing area, it’s the best I got.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at


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