By Jim Ellis
Sept. 13, 2017 — For the third time in a week, a Republican House member announced that he will not seek re-election next year. This time, it’s a junior member who is retiring. Second-term Michigan Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham/Livonia) announced that he will return to the private sector after the current Congress ends in early 2019. The congressman had built a highly successful real estate and foreclosure legal practice before coming to the House in 2015.
The move is certainly a surprise, and leaves another marginal Republican district up for grabs. Though races can get close here, the GOP congressional nominee has won in every election since the 11th District was originally created.
The seat was drawn in its near present form during the 2001 redistricting process as a result of then-Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) being paired in the former 15th District. This, after national reapportionment reduced the Michigan delegation by one seat.
In 2002, then-state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) won the new 11th District after having a hand in drawing the congressional map as a member of the Senate redistricting committee. McCotter would serve five terms, leaving because of ballot qualification problems in 2012.
Businessman Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford), who in actuality was an accidental congressman, succeeded Rep. McCotter. Because the incumbent was ruled ineligible after candidate filing closed, Bentivolio found himself unopposed in the Republican primary, and then defeated a write-in candidate to win the nomination. He slipped past physician Sayed Taj (D) in the general election, 51-44 percent, to capture the seat. Two years later, Trott would easily deny Rep. Bentivolio re-nomination, and then won his two successive general elections.
The 11th District is a Detroit suburban seat encompassing parts of Oakland and Wayne Counties. It begins in the domain’s largest municipality, Livonia, and annexes Canton and Novi before turning northeast to pick up Auburn Hills. It then swings back south to capture the cities of Troy and Birmingham.
Republicans have won every congressional contest here beginning in 2002 with an average 54.8 percent of the vote. President Trump carried the 11th with a 50-45 percent margin. Mitt Romney won here 52-47 percent in 2012, but then-Sen. Barack Obama edged Sen. John McCain 50-48 percent in the 2008 open presidential election. Therefore, the numbers tell us that this Detroit suburban seat is a classic “lean Republican” congressional district.
We can expect a great deal of activity to begin occurring here now that MI-11 is coming open. Before Trott decided to retire, two Democrats had entered the 2018 campaign. Former Homeland Security Department official Fayrouz Saad and ex-Treasury Department appointee Haley Stevens have already declared their candidacies. State Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), a former state House Minority Leader and Oakland County commissioner, was considering the challenge race but now may take an even more serious look since the contest is suddenly without an incumbent.
Considering the surprise nature of Rep. Trott’s decision, it will take several days or weeks for the Republican side to gel. Democrats will certainly make this Michigan campaign a top conversion target next year.