2010 Michigan 9th District Race: Democrat Gary Peters Challenged by Fellow Veteran Rocky Raczkowski

Shawn Humphrey
Yahoo! Contributor Network
Michigan's 9th Congressional District

Incumbent Gary Peters is favored demographically and through a massive campaign war chest in his re-election bid this midterm election. However, nearly every Democrat in a swing district is struggling with re-election challenges, as voters are dissatisfied with the economy. His challenger, Republican Rocky Raczkowski, will try to tie Peters' voting record to the lingering Michigan recession.

Candidates for Michigan's 9th Congressional District (two-year term)

(This district is entirely within Oakland County and includes the cities of Pontiac, Rochester Hills, Troy, Royal Oak, Farmington Hills, Birmingham and Waterford. See a boundary map here.)

Candidate: Gary Peters

Party: Democrat

Political experience: Peters was a Michigan state senator for two terms, a Rochester Hills city councilman and was the Michigan lottery commissioner. He is currently serving his first term in the House of Representatives.

Professional experience: Peters is a former lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. He served part of his reserve duty in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. He served following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Key issues: Peters spends a very large part of the issues section of his website on jobs and job creation, discussed further in the comparison below. It's a vital issue for him, given the economic climate in Michigan that is considered one of the toughest in the country.

He has a Wall Street reform plan he wants to enact to force the payback of every penny spent on the bailouts and force the return of excessive bonus payouts like those given by AIG. He wants better protection for retirement benefits from fraud and reckless Wall Street practices, and he supports consumer protections that eliminate lending scams, fees and excesses.

Endorsements: Peters has been endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the LCV Action Fund.

Chances of maintaining his seat: Peters knew he would be a target this election and has developed his campaign funds with this in mind. According to OpenSecrets.org, he has raised $2,331,179 to Raczkowski's $840,987. Raczkowski has run through a lot of his money; and he had to win a primary, too. He has only $215,088 left to Peters' $1,927,846.

Peters take a very conservative approach to spending and taxation, which could help him some, but he may be seen as weak given his votes for health reform and the stimulus bill. Still, the district leans in his direction, so he has a strong chance of being re-elected.

Candidate: Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski

Party: Republican

Political experience: Raczkowski was elected to the Michigan state house in 1996 and became the majority leader. He ran against Sen. Carl Levin in 2002.

Professional experience: Raczkowski is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and is also a paratrooper and certified Pathfinder. He is the former chairman and CEO of Star Tickets, part of the ticketing and entertainment industry.

Key issues: Raczkowski notes he stands for traditional values and defending the Second Amendment. He wants free-market decisions to guide energy policy, job creation and health care; he refers in the issues section of his website to "death panels" and "health care rationing."

His stance on illegal immigration is that it is a national security concern and that the federal government should use the E-Verify program to make sure workers are legal. Workers who arrive legally should be accepted openly, but illegal immigrants must be deported and denied benefits, he says.

Endorsements: Raczkowski is endorsed by former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Americans for Legal Immigration and the Independence Caucus.

Chances of unseating Gary Peters: Plain and simple, "Rocky" lacks money. He's in a more favorable election atmosphere than Joe Knollenberg faced in 2008, but Peters is the incumbent and the district is slightly more favorable to Democrats. Still, Peters' votes could count against him in this close race, and Raczkowski will capitalize on Peter's vote for the stimulus and health care reform. It's an uphill race for him, but certainly not impossible; internal polling suggested Rocky has a polling advantage, but as it is internal -- as opposed to independent polling -- the numbers shouldn't be relied on for analysis.

Key Differences between Rocky Raczkowski and Gary Peters

Jobs: This issue dominates in Michigan, and Raczkowski and Peters have in-depth responses. Raczkowski wants to end the recession by encouraging necessary oversight and regulation without job-killing government bailouts and intrusion. Peters is approaching job concerns from a small-business perspective (cut their taxes and zero interest loans), with the intent to boost the auto industry (no tax breaks for those shipping jobs overseas and more stay-in-Michigan incentives). He is touting a new tax credit for manufacturing investments.

Spending: Peters wants no pay raises for Congress until the recession is over, a total ban on earmarks, pay-and-you-go spending and a freeze on domestic spending until the budget is balanced. Raczkowski also wants an earmarks freeze, but notes he'd like to see a 72-hour review on bills for transparency and accountability provisions on all spending bills.

National defense: Both men have served in the military, so they have strong views on the subject. Raczkowski wants to make sure that generals are heard first in making military decisions -- not politicians -- and that U.S. troops receive the equipment and support they deserve. He's for making the intelligence community the strongest in the world. Peters supports the accelerated expansion of Afghanistan's forces taking on more of their own responsibilities, wants to toughen sanctions on Iran and believes the U.S. should work closely with Israel.

Michigan's 9th U.S. Congressional District

Location: The Michigan's 9th District lies within suburban Detroit and is entirely within Oakland County.

2008 results: Democrat Gary Peters beat Republican Joe Knollenberg 52.1 percent to 42.6 percent.

Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 77.4 percent of the district is white, 10 percent black, 7.1 percent Asian, 3.6 percent Hispanic and 0.2 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.

The Cook Partisan Index gives the Michigan's 9th District a rating of D+2, awarding a slight edge to Democratic voters in this district.