This morning, Michigan Rep. Dave Trott became the third Republican in five days to announce he will retire from a marginal seat in 2018. Unlike Reps. Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Dave Reichert (WA-08), Trott is only in his second term and was already vulnerable after receiving 53 percent in 2016. Furthermore, Democrats already have a potentially strong candidate running: former Obama administration Auto Task Force chief of staff Haley Stevens.
In a wave election, Michigan's 11th CD is exactly the kind of seat Democrats need to flip to win House control. In 2011, GOP legislators carefully drew it to take in the most Republican inner suburbs of Detroit and exclude the heavily Democratic city of Pontiac. In 2016, it voted for President Trump 49 percent to 45 percent. However, it's also the most college-educated seat in the state and the only one where Trump's margin failed to improve from Mitt Romney's in 2012.
Stevens may have a head start on the GOP field after raising $320,000 in the first half of 2017. Stevens, 33, grew up in the district and is a veteran of many campaigns, including Hillary Clinton's bid in 2008. But she may first face a competitive primary against another female former Obama administration official, self-styled progressive Democrat Fayrouz Saad, who helped coordinate the DHS's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
This is a place where Republicans would be better off nominating a candidate with strong ties to the Detroit business community, like Trott, than a populist in the Trump mold. Early possibilities include state Rep. Klint Kesto, a former Wayne County prosecutor and family pizza shop manager, and state Rep. Laura Cox, a former customs agent. Five-term Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who lost a Senate race against Stabenow in 2006, is also mentioned.
If Democrats nominate Stevens, Republicans will try to disqualify her by highlighting her time outside Michigan and her extensive DC resume, including two degrees at American University and stints on the Auto Task Force and at the Treasury Department. But those attacks may not resonate if voters are focused on sending a message to Trump. Michigan's 11th CD moves from the Likely Republican column to Toss Up.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call