Hertel resigns as Whitmer legislative affairs director, fueling speculation of congressional run

By: - June 30, 2023 1:19 pm

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) at the Bans Off Our Bodies protest in Lansing on May 3, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

Curtis Hertel Jr. has officially left the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer administration, furthering speculation that he will announce a run for Congress to replace U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), who’s launched a U.S. Senate bid.

In a press release Friday, Whitmer announced that Hertel had stepped down as her director of legislative affairs, a position the Democrat had held since being term-limited from the Michigan Senate in 2022. 

He was part of negotiations on the $82 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget, which the Legislature finished passing this week. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on June 1, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“I am so grateful to my friend Curtis Hertel, Jr. for his service to the State of Michigan and for everything he has done bringing Republicans and Democrats together to make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Whitmer. “Curtis helped deliver $1 billion in tax cuts for Michiganders by securing a repeal of the retirement tax and expanding the Working Families Tax Credit. He led efforts to create thousands of good-paying American jobs, bringing investment and supply chains back home from overseas. And every Michigander now has more freedom and rights thanks to Curtis’s work in the legislature to strengthen the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.”

Hertel, the former Ingham County register of deeds who served as a state senator for Michigan’s 23rd District from 2015 to 2022, has not officially declared for Congress. 

When contacted Friday by the Michigan Advance, Hertel said he was limited in what he could say at this point about his plans, but was grateful for Whitmer’s comments.

“I appreciate what we’ve been able to accomplish with the new Democratic majorities, and I look forward to commenting on the future at another date,” he said.

He will be replaced by Patti Tremblay, who had served as the office of legal counsel’s point person on legislation and the budget and was Hertel’s deputy. She previously served as legal counsel for the Michigan House Democratic caucus. 

Hertel’s departure follows his appearance earlier this month at a Democratic event in Livingston County in which Slotkin touted him as her successor for the 7th Congressional District in mid-Michigan. Slotkin earlier this year announced she would not run for reelection as she seeks to replace U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing).

Hertel, Slotkin noted, has deep familial ties to Michigan politics and public service, as well as a personal dedication to the regional community. A member of the Hertel family, a Democratic dynasty, Hertel is the son of former House Speaker Curtis Hertel Sr. and the brother of Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores).

However, as Hertel could not run for office while holding an executive branch position, his stepping down as director of legislative affairs would be a requirement before making an official announcement. 

State Sen. Tom Barrett, Nov. 4, 2022 | Laina Stebbins

Michigan’s 7th District is considered a toss-up and key to the control of Congress, so there’s been no shortage of speculation about who could succeed Slotkin.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, who’s also a Democratic former House member, has said she won’t mount a campaign. On the GOP side, state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) has declared. He unsuccessfully challenged Slotkin in 2022.

For the Senate, other Democrats running are State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, businessman Nasser Beydoun, attorney Zack Burns and former state Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit). Republicans who have declared are Nikki Snyder, a member of the State Board of Education; attorney Alexandria Taylor, who has represented Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo; former Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott; and Michael Hoover, who used to work for Dow Chemical Co.


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and 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 2022 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.