Barrett enters race for Slotkin’s U.S. House seat, while multiple Democrats ponder a run

By: - February 28, 2023 11:39 am

State Sen. Tom Barrett speaks at a rally for GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon in Brighton, Nov. 4, 2022 | Laina Stebbins

With U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) announcing Monday that she is officially running for an open U.S. Senate seat next year, there’s no shortage of candidates who could seek her seat representing Michigan’s 7th District in mid-Michigan.

First out of the gate is the man Slotkin defeated in November, former state Sen.Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte). Barrett’s campaign strategist, Jason Roe, told the Lansing State Journal that a formal announcement would come in the next few weeks.

“Senator Barrett has received a lot of encouragement from around the state to seek the congressional seat in 2024 and plans to do so,” Roe told the State Journal.

Despite representing a state Senate district that included large swaths of the newly drawn 7th Congressional District, Barrett lost to Slotkin by more than a 5-point margin in one of the most expensive House races in the nation.

State Sen. Lana Theis attends a Republican gubernatorial in Howell on May 13, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Another possibility for Republicans is state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), who gained national attention last year after sending out a fundraising email insinuating Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and other Democrats groom and sexualize children because they support LGBTQ+ rights. McMorrow’s response subsequently went viral and resulted in a personal phone call from President Joe Biden. 

Despite that, Theis’ popularity among Republicans remains strong, as she easily beat Trump-endorsed Republican Mike Detmer in the August primary.

Among Democrats, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said she is contemplating a run for the seat.

“In the days and weeks to come, there will be plenty of speculation and decisions being made about the future of our community’s representation,” she wrote in an email to supporters. “I am very flattered to have already heard from friends who have asked what my future holds. And I will tell you what I told them: I simply want to serve the people in the best way that I can.”

Byrum, who previously represented the Lansing area in the Michigan House, included a fundraising link in the email.

 “I am proud of the work that I have done as Ingham County Clerk in a very tumultuous environment,” she continued. “I believe that our Democracy deserves to be defended, and the people that make it up deserve to have their voices heard. Whatever the future holds, I intend to do just that.”

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum at a press conference announcing Democrats’ voting rights bill package, Nov. 3, 2021, at the Ingham County Courthouse | Laina G. Stebbins

Byrum’s mother, former state Sen. Dianne Byrum, ran in 2000 for a congressional seat that covered some of the same territory. She narrowly lost to now-former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Howell). 

Other possible Democratic candidates include Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, who said he plans to “seriously examine the race and make a determination soon,” as well as state Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.), who said she would consider it if needed.

Other candidates could include former state Senator Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), who now serves as legislative director for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; state Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), state Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.) and state Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing).

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.