Michigan’s new congressional map likely sets up three battleground seats for the next decade, while teeing up a Democratic member-on-member clash between Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin.
Michigan is on track to be much more hotly contested at the congressional level than during the previous decades, when just two seats switched party hands, both in 2018.
The state’s new independent commission approved one of its proposed maps on Tuesday, which will create battleground districts centered around the cities of Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint. In a good year for the GOP, they could control as many as nine of the 13 districts. In an unfavorable environment for Republicans, that number could drop to four. Overall, the map creates seven districts that voted for now-President Joe Biden in 2020, and six that then-President Donald Trump carried last year.
It also immediately triggered a member-on-member primary between Stevens and Levin in the state’s new 11th District, a safe blue seat to the north of Detroit. Both members declared their intentions to run in the district minutes after it was finalized. Stevens previously flipped the district in 2018 during a wave year for Democrats, but its new lines make it significantly more blue than the district she first won.
Meanwhile, Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee, in the new 8th District, and Elissa Slotkin, in the new 7th District, find themselves in competitive districts. And the 10th District (which Levin is vacating to run against Stevens in a more Democratic seat) is now a top battleground.
John James, a twice-failed Senate candidate, is a possible Republican contender for the open 10th District — though so is former GOP Rep. Mike Bishop, who may be considering a comeback after losing to Slotkin in 2018.
Former state Attorney General Bill Schuette is considering a run against Kildee, according to sources familiar with GOP recruitment —though GOP Rep. John Moolenaar’s hometown of Midland is now grouped in the Kildee’s seat. State Sen. Tom Barrett plans to run against Slotkin in Lansing.
Rep. Peter Meijer, a freshman Republican who voted to impeach Trump earlier this year, said he would run in the state’s new 3rd District, which has become more Democratic.
Perennial battleground Republican Rep. Fred Upton announced he would run in the state’s 4th District, which could also be a competitive if marginally red-leaning seat.
The maps may still be challenged in court. Gustavo Portela, a spokesperson for the state Republican Party, said that “we are evaluating all options to take steps necessary to defend the voices silenced by this commission.
Democratic Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Debbie Dingell's homes are also paired up in a new deep-blue 12th District that includes parts of Detroit and Dearborn. But Dingell, who succeeded her late husband in 2015, quickly announced that she would run in the state’s 6th District, which is also safely blue.
“It has long been clear that Dearborn would be incorporated into a voting rights district with communities in Detroit, and I have always believed representation matters so I will not run in a [Voting Rights Act-protected] district,” Dingell said in a statement. “With very mixed and complicated emotions, I will be moving to continue serving the vast number of my current constituents, and I look forward to meeting new voters, making my case, and earning their vote.”
The state’s panel was already facing tough choices going into the map-making process, with Michigan losing a congressional seat after the 2020 census, dropping down to 13 districts.
It is also the first time an independent commission has drawn the maps in Michigan. Voters approved a 2018 ballot initiative to create the commission, which replaced the state legislature as the primary mapmaker in the state. Eight of the group’s 13 commissioners — two Democrats, two Republicans and four independents — voted for the new map.
“We’re thrilled overall,” said Nancy Wang, who helped spearhead the 2018 referendum and is the executive director of the anti-gerrymandering group Voters not Politicians. “It certainly wasn’t perfect, and there was a bit of learning the commission had to do … but I think this sets an example for voters here as to what we should be expecting from our politicians, but then also for all the other commissions and other redistricting bodies in other states as well.”
Also Tuesday, the Virginia state Supreme Court approved that state's new congressional map — a responsibility it assumed after the state's new independent commission deadlocked. The map, drawn by special masters Bernard Grofman and Sean Trende, makes some changes to their earlier proposal — though it still shifts Rep. Abigail Spanberger's district north of her current seat.
Under the new lines, Biden would have won seven of the state's 11 districts, and Trump four. But he only would have carried Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's southeast Virginia seat by 2 points and the new Spanberger seat by 7 points — both of which would be vulnerable in a midterm environment favoring Republicans next year.
Steven Shepard contributed to this report.