Dems seek to flip historically Republican congressional seat in West Michigan in 2024

By: - July 19, 2023 5:00 am

Jessica Swartz, a Kalamazoo-based attorney who is running in 2024 for the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District. (Courtesy of Jessica Swartz for Congress)

Jessica Swartz, a Kalamazoo attorney, on Wednesday morning launched her campaign as a Democratic contender for Michigan’s 4th Congressional District, in hopes of challenging U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) in 2024.

“There’s a lot of blue voters who are looking for a common-sense politician, a common sense member of Congress to support them. There’s also quite a few moderate voters who are just fed up with the MAGA extremism and are looking for someone who can sit down and solve some problems,” Swartz told the Advance in a Tuesday interview.

Swartz is a West Michigan native who previously worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs before serving as deputy general counsel for Western Michigan University.

Huizenga, who represented Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District prior to redistricting, was reelected in 2022, defeating Democratic candidate Joseph Alfonso from Holland. 

Alongside the five other Republican members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, Huizenga last week endorsed former President Donald Trump, according to a statement from Trump’s campaign.

Both Huizenga and Alfonso have filed to run again in 2024, with Huizenga raising more than $722,919 in the first half of the year. Alfonso has not filed his second-quarter report yet.

Chris Glasser from Kalamazoo, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2022, but ended his campaign after failing to gather enough signatures in time to make the ballot, also could run again.

Michigan’s 4th Congressional District represents all of Allegan and Van Buren counties and parts of Berrien, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, and Ottawa counties. Prior to redistricting in 2022, Kalamazoo County — which went in favor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in each of her elections, and supported President Joe Biden in 2020 — was not part of the 4th Congressional District.

In its 2023 Partisan Voting Index Map and List, Cook Political Report gave Michigan’s 4th Congressional District a rating of R+5, signaling a Republican lean. However, Swartz said the district is trending blue.

In April, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it would be targeting an open seat in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, currently held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) who’s running for U.S. Senate next year, and Michigan’s 10th Congressional District held by U.S. Rep. John James (R-Shelby Twp.). 

The National Republican Congressional Committee will also target the 7th , as well as the 3rd Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Grand Rapids) and the 8th represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint).

In her campaign, Swartz said she will focus on the economy, the environment and attacks on women, by working to address the rising cost of living, protecting clean drinking water and the Great Lakes, and defending the right to abortion. Huizenga is opposed to abortion rights. 

Swartz said she also wanted to continue advancing efforts on infrastructure, noting Huizenga’s vote against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Huizenga criticized the bipartisan package in a statement released after the vote. 

“A truly bipartisan infrastructure package could have garnered widespread support by focusing on hard infrastructure such as roads, bridges, highways, pipelines, and rural broadband,” Huizenga said.

“I will not support legislation that spends more than necessary and opens the door for trillions upon trillions of spending on liberal and socialist priorities,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) campaigns in Lansing on Aug. 27, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Huizenga did not immediately return a request for comment.

Swartz also highlighted her focus on finding common-sense solutions.

“My goal here is to solve problems and help the people in the district, so I’m not going to shut down people who are coming to me with great ideas based on what party they’re in,” she said.

“I want to solve problems. I don’t want to create more problems. I’m willing to sit down at the table and listen to all of the people in my district and not advocate only for the extremists on the right,” Swartz said.

Swartz said her background as a lawyer would be beneficial if she’s elected. 

“In order to write the laws, you need to be able to read them and understand them and interpret them,” Swartz said. 

“I’ve had the opportunity of trying to interpret for clients, both well-written laws and not very well-written laws. And you know, the better training that you have in that area, the more useful you’ll be able to be in writing things that are understandable for people,” Swartz said.

In addition to her legal work, Swartz also worked with the nonpartisan organization Voters Not Politicians in 2018, supporting the organization’s push to create an independent redistricting commission with the Proposal 2 constitutional amendment that passed. 

“I’ve been a public interest attorney for almost all of my career. You know, I’m very dedicated to protecting the voters in our district and making government work well. And I think that those are two things that my opponent doesn’t necessarily have,” Swartz said, referring to Huizenga. 

“I’m really looking forward to working hard and getting out there and talking to the people in my district.”


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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.