Why aren’t Dems targeting any Michigan U.S. reps. in 2022?

By: - August 12, 2021 4:03 am

U.S. Reps. Peter Meijer (left) and Fred Upton (right) | Photos by Nick Manes and Upton’s campaign

Ahead of the 2022 election cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has announced 22 Republican-held or open seats the party is trying to flip — but none are in Michigan. 

Ken Kollman, a University of Michigan political science professor, said the DCCC’s decision could be because recent history shows the party likely will lose control in the midterm elections with Democratic President Joe Biden in office. 

“[If] you’re on the defensive, like Democrats will be, you try to spread your resources widely, and protect everywhere, until you may get a little more certainty as the election approaches,” Kollman said. 

Since 1946, the president’s party has averaged a loss of 25 House seats in midterm elections. In 2018, GOP former President Donald Trump lost 26 U.S. House seats, while Democratic former President Barack Obama lost 13 seats in the 2014 election. 

In 2020, the DCCC targeted U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) in the 6th District in Southwest Michigan and Peter Meijer, who’s now a Republican congressman from Grand Rapids, in the open 3rd District. But neither made the DCCC’s initial cut for next year’s targets. 

“Democrats’ initial targets were released at the beginning of the election cycle,” DCCC spokesperson Elena Kuhn said. “As the political dynamics change over the next 15 months, so will the potential for additional districts to be added to our target list.”

The DCCC embarrassed themselves in 2020 by targeting seats they knew were not winnable, and this cycle is going to be even worse for them.

– NRCC spokesperson Mike Berg

Upton is the dean of Michigan’s congressional delegation, having been in office since 1987. He won reelection in 2020 by nearly 16 percentage points against former state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) in what was expected to be a far closer race. In the last midterm cycle in 2018, Upton won reelection by about 5 points over his Democratic opponent, Matt Longjohn. 

Upton spokesperson Billy Fuerst told the Advance he thinks the DCCC isn’t going after the Republican this cycle because his bipartisan record is part of his popularity. 

“His kind of secret sauce saw him win 16 points last cycle and his work in Congress, especially [his work] on a bipartisan basis. I think that’s the reason (why) the past 18 election cycles he’s been reelected. … ​​I just think the DCCC doesn’t want to invest money where there’s no return, so long as Mr. Upton is representing Michigan’s 6th District.”

Meijer is currently serving his first term after beating Democrat Hillary Scholten by 6 points in the 2020 general election. He replaced U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who left the GOP in 2019 and became a Libertarian after being shunned for supporting Trump’s first impeachment. 

Meijer’s campaign didn’t respond to the Advance’s request for comment. But National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesperson Mike Berg said the “DCCC embarrassed themselves in 2020 by targeting seats they knew were not winnable, and this cycle is going to be even worse for them.”  

Both Meijer and Upton have received criticism from Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser in March after their vote to impeach Trump the second time for fomenting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Members at a North Oakland Republican meeting asked what should be done about the congressmen, with one person calling them “witches in our own party.”

“Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way … other than voting [them] out,” Weiser said after being prompted by a female audience member.

Weiser later said he “should have chosen my words more carefully.”

Reps. Elissa Slotkin (left) and Haley Stevens (right) | Andrew Roth photos

Meanwhile, the NRCC is again targeting Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), who flipped two Southeast Michigan seats in 2018. Republicans unsuccessfully tried to knock them off in 2020. 

The NRCC launched a paid media campaign targeting 15 Democrats, including Stevens and Slotkin, for “rising costs of everyday goods” last week. 

The NRCC also has U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) in its sights, as the Advance reported that he was added to the NRCC’s 2022 list after redistricting showed that Michigan would be losing a congressional seat. 

Both the NRCC and DCCC have raked in massive amounts of money during the second quarter of 2021. 

The NRCC raised $45.4 million, the campaign committee’s largest amount of money brought in during an off-year. The amount was far more than the DCCC’s $36.5 million raised during the same time period. 


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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.