Meijer withdraws from Senate race, Aiyash won’t seek another state House term

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Peter Meijer in Grand Rapids | Nick Manes

Friday’s withdrawal deadline has slimmed down some of the fields for Michigan’s Aug. 6 primary election, with the biggest change coming in the race for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State listing updated just after Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline, former U. S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) has exited from the GOP primary to fill the seat that will open up with the planned retirement of Democrat Debbie Stabenow. That leaves former U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-White Lake) and Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.), physician Sherry O’Donnell and businessman Sandy Pensler in the race on the Republican side.

In a statement, Meijer said he withdrew due to the “hard reality [that] the fundamentals of the race have changed significantly” since he launched his campaign. 

“Without a strong pathway to victory, continuing this campaign only increases the likelihood of a divisive primary that would distract from the essential goal — conservative victories in November,” said Meijer..

Meijer was one of a handful of Republicans to vote for the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden. Most analysts point to that as the reason Meijer lost his 2022 GOP congressional primary. It appears that the harsh criticism he garnered from Republicans for not being sufficiently loyal to Trump during the U.S. Senate race may have taken its toll. 

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), actor Hill Harper and businessman Nasser Beydoun all remain filed for the Aug. 6 primary.

There are three changes in Michigan’s congressional races. 

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley at the State of the State address, Jan. 29, 2020 | Andrew Roth

In the 8th District that includes Flint, Bay City and Midland, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley has withdrawn from the Democratic primary race. That seat will also be open after U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) announced that he would not seek reelection. State Sen. Kristen McDonald-Rivet (D-Bay City), State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, and former Flint Mayor Matt Collier will face off in the August primary. 

Republican Paul Junge, who unsuccessfully challenged Kildee in 2022, will compete for the GOP nomination in the 8th against Mary Draves, Anthony J. Hudson, and Republican Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, who previously campaigned for the U.S. Senate before seeking the Republican nomination in the 8th District.

Meanwhile, in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District in West Michigan, Democrat Joseph Alfonso has withdrawn, leaving Jessica Swartz as the sole Democrat to seek the nomination, while incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) is being challenged by Brendan Muir on the GOP side.

And U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit) still faces a crowd of primary challengers in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District that includes Detroit and western Wayne County, although Mohammad Rabbi Alam has been disqualified. Thanadar will still battle Shakira Lynn Hawkins, former state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) and former state Rep. Mary Waters (D-Detroit). Martell Bivings, who lost to Thanedar in the 2022 general election, has filed as a Republican.

State House races in 2024 … and 2026 state Senate battles

With all 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives on the ballot this November, all eyes remain on whether Democrats can retain, or even expand, their 56-54 advantage in the House. Or will Republicans be able to win back the chamber this fall and put the brakes on some of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s agenda?

By far, the biggest change is the withdrawal of House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) from the race for the 7th District, leaving Ernest T. Little, Tonya Myers Phillips and Abraham D. Shaw seeking the Democratic nod, with Barry Altman and Shelby Wininger running for the Republican nomination.

Gongwer is reporting Aiyash withdrew so that he can maintain eligibility to serve up to eight full years in the Michigan Senate following alterations to the state’s term limits. Proposal 1 approved by voters in 2022 modified term limits for Michigan’s Legislature so that legislators could only serve a combined 12 years in both the House and Senate. 

State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), Feb. 15, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

Meanwhile, Michigan House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) is now only up against two other candidates in August in the 9th District after Bobby Christian withdrew, R.M. Nelson and Lory Renea Parks. On the Republican side of the ballot is Michele Lundgren, one of the 15 individuals charged for submitting a false slate of electoral votes for Trump following the 2020 election. 

In the race for the 33rd House District, Republican Jason Rogers has the GOP primary to himself after Alan Dettling withdrew. The district is currently represented by state Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.) who previously said she will not seek reelection in the House but plans to run for the 15th District Senate Seat in 2026. The seat is currently held by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) who will be ineligible to run in 2026 due to term limits. Democrats Morgan Foreman and Rima Mohammad have each filed in the Democratic primary to succeed Brabec.

There were no withdrawals in the 50th House District, leaving a four-way contest for the GOP nomination. Incumbent state Rep. Bob Bezotte (R-Howell) initially said he would not seek another term, but then changed course and filed for reelection despite endorsing two other Republicans before jumping back in, Jason Woolford and Kristina Lyke. They both remain in the race, along with fellow Republican Dominic Restuccia. Austin Breuer is the lone Democrat seeking the seat.

While two other Republicans filed to challenge Trump ally state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) in the 51st House District: Laura Vogel and Kevin Siegler, only Siegler remains after Vogel withdrew. Democrat Sarah May-Seward — who opposed Maddock in the 2022 election — has filed to appear in the primary against Debbie Llewellyn.

Another incumbent with one less primary challenger is Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford), who now faces just Randy LeVasseur for Michigan’s 66th House District GOP race after Jeffrey M. Omtvedt withdrew. Schriver was previously sanctioned by Tate for a “sustained campaign of racist rhetoric and hate speech” posted to social media about the “Great Replacement” theory, with Tate stripping Schriver of his office staff, funding and his committee assignment. Meanwhile, Shawn Almeranti-Crosby has filed to run as a Democrat.

Also withdrawing was right-wing radio host “Trucker Randy” Bishop, who had filed to run as a Democrat for the 104th House District in the northern Lower Peninsula. That seat is currently held by state Rep. John Roth (R-Interlochen) who faces a challenge from Republican Owen Suhy, while Larry Knight is now the lone Democrat in the primary. 

Bishop, a former Antrim County chair who has spread pro-Trump conspiracies about the 2020 election, also filed to run as a Democrat in a 2022 state Senate election.

Right-wing talk show host Randy Bishop, a.k.a. “Trucker Randy” speaks at a right-wing rally calling for a so-called “audit” of the 2020 election at the Michigan Capitol, Oct. 12, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

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