The Rogers Seat: Will the GOP Hang On?

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers’ surprise retirement announcement is igniting a political scramble in south-central Michigan. The open 8th District in Michigan should remain in Republican hands, but if Democrats can create a political wave in either the governor or Senate race that translates into a turnout driver, then witnessing a competitive open seat campaign here becomes probable.

Rogers who, at the beginning of the election cycle, was widely discussed as the Republicans’ best potential open seat senatorial candidate but instead decided to remain in the House, is moving into broadcast media. At the beginning of next year, he will host his own radio program on the Atlanta-based Cumulus Media network.

The 2011 redistricting plan crafted the 8th as a marginal Republican district but it is much more secure for the party in Rogers’ hands, who for years has proven himself to be a top campaigner, then in an open seat configuration. Mitt Romney carried the district by a 51-48 percent count over President Obama in 2012, but the Democrat bested John McCain 52-46 percent here four years earlier. The state and national political trends will greatly influence the final outcome of the 2014 race.

On the Republican side, the potential candidate names are led by former Oakland County Sheriff and 2006 US Senate candidate Mike Bouchard, and the congressman’s brother, Bill Rogers, who is a state Representative. Several sitting state senators are possible entries, as are Rochester Hills Mayor Brian Barnett, former state House Speaker Craig DeRoche, and ex-Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis.

Democrats have fewer obvious options, but the person seemingly taking the lead in actively pursuing the contest is Ingham County Clerk and former state representative, Barb Byrum. Her mother, Diane Byrum, then a Michigan state senator, lost to Rogers by only 111 votes in 2000, the last time this district was open. Other potential Democratic candidates are state Rep. Sam Singh, and Lansing Board of Education President Peter Spadafore.

The 8th District includes Ingham County and the city of Lansing in their entirety, Livingston County, and 20 percent of Oakland County. The seat stretches from Lansing in the south-central portion of the state, and then travels eastward to annex the Brighton area, Rep. Rogers’ home city, before wrapping around the northern sector of Oakland County to encompass the Rochester Hills area on the far eastern point of the district, approximately 25 miles north of Detroit.

Rep. Rogers’ decision not to seek re-election means 42 seats will be open in House races in 2014. One, Florida’s Fort Myers/Cape Coral-anchored 19th District (Rep. Trey Radel resigning), will be filled in a special election prior to the general election cycle. Two others, North Carolina’s 12th District (Rep. Mel Watt resigning to accept a federal appointment) and New Jersey’s 1st District (Rep. Rob Andrews resigning to join the private sector) will feature specials concurrent with the general election calendar. Seven US House electoral contests have already been held since 2013 began, with Republicans winning five and Democrats two. The GOP currently holds 24 of the 42 open seats; Democrats’ 18.

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