Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell to Retire:
“Rhetoric Overwhelms Policy …”

Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden)

By Jim Ellis

July 26, 2019 — Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) who represents the eastern part of the state known as “the thumb of Michigan”, announced Tuesday that he will not seek a third term in the US House.

His reason for departing after what will be only four years in office and spending over $7 million of this own money to win election to Congress over three campaigns is to spend more time with his family because of his special needs son. Rep. Mitchell also expresses displeasure and frustration with Washington because, he says, “rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city.”

Rep. Mitchell was originally elected in 2016, replacing Rep. Candice Miller (R) when she retired after 14 years in the House. He won a five-way Republican primary that year with 38 percent support, or more than 8,000 votes beyond he and his closest competitor, state Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-Port Huron). Mitchell won the ’16 general election with a 63-32 percent margin and was re-elected last year, 60-35 percent.

In his first venture into elective politics, Mitchell ran in the vacant 4th District when former Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-Midland) retired in 2014 after his time leading the panel had reached its term limit. In the three-way Republican primary, Mitchell lost 52-36 percent to current Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland). After the defeat, he moved across the state to Lapeer County, an area where Mitchell had business interests.

Michigan’s 10th District is the safest Republican seat in the Wolverine State. President Trump carried the domain with a 64-32 percent margin, his best showing within the 14 Michigan districts. Mitt Romney won here, too, 55-48 percent, while John McCain only barely topped then-Sen. Barack Obama with a scant 50-48 percent margin. Rep. Miller, over the course of her seven elections, averaged 67.7 percent of the vote.

The 10th District borders Lake Huron and hugs Lake St. Clair before dropping down to the eastern outer Detroit suburbs. It includes the “thumb region” because the geography looks like a proportional thumb on the hand-shaped lower Michigan peninsula.

The seat is anchored in Macomb County, which contains about half the district population, but occupies only 40 percent of the county. All of Huron, Lapeer, Sanilac, and St. Clair counties are included in the 10th along with two-thirds of Tuscola County. The larger population areas include the cities or townships of Sterling Heights, Shelby, and Port Huron.

The Mitchell retirement now means there are 11 open seats within the present election cycle, including the two North Carolina special elections that will be filled on Sept. 10. Republicans are risking eight of the 11, and the three competitive GOP open seats at this time appear to be the NC-9 special election, the Montana statewide at-large district (Rep. Greg Gianforte running for governor), and the GA-7 Atlanta suburban CD (Rep. Rob Woodall retiring).

Democrats look to have only one even moderately competitive open seat, and that is IA-2 (Rep. David Loebsack retiring) where the party is already coalescing behind former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart (D-Charles City).

Republicans will likely nominate former Illinois Congressman Bobby Schilling who moved to Iowa several years ago. Schilling represented the Quad Cities-based 17th District for one term (2011-13). He defeated then-Rep. Phil Hare (D-Rock Island) in 2010 but lost two years later to now Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Cheri Bustos (D-Moline).

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