Jul 19, 2022 - Politics

What to know about Michigan's 13th District primary

Illustration of a pattern of voting booths.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There's a wide open race for Michigan's new 13th Congressional District, which could be the only one to send a Black Detroiter to Congress this year.

Why it matters: Black leaders are pushing to elect a Detroiter to the office without an incumbent after the retirement of U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence.

  • The winner of the Aug. 2 primary in this solidly Democratic district is expected to win the Nov. 8 election against Martell Bivings, the lone Republican in the race.

Context: Nine Democrats are on the ballot to represent the redrawn 13th — the only majority-Black congressional district under the state's new district map. It makes up most of Detroit, part of western Wayne County, the Grosse Pointes and some Downriver communities.

  • Stagnant population growth from 2010 to 2020 lost Michigan a congressional seat in the latest redistricting process.

What's happening: The race still doesn't have a front-runner despite a big fundraising lead by Sen. Adam Hollier.

  • The big money disparity hasn't diminished the confidence of Portia Roberson, CEO of Hope: Focus.

Roberson's campaign has noteworthy endorsements from Lawrence, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Emily's List, a major D.C.-based fundraising group that supports progressive women candidates.

  • The former President Obama administration employee is the only candidate with experience in bringing federal resources to Detroit.

Hollier, the race's current lead fundraiser, has the support of the region's Democratic establishment. He's endorsed by Mayor Mike Duggan and supported by D.C.based Democratic Majority for Israel and the United Democracy Project.

  • Hollier has received criticism from challengers for his non-local financial support as well as his support for Michigan's controversial auto-insurance reform.

💭 Sam's thought bubble: Hollier and Roberson will likely receive the most votes, but with so many candidates, how much they pull ahead of the pack is difficult to forecast.

  • Name recognition could boost several candidates, including Sharon McPhail and John Conyers III — who appears on the ballot without his suffix. But it likely won't be enough to move ahead of the more organized campaigns.

What's next: This is our first of several election guides ahead of the Aug. 2 primary.

👀 The full list of 13th District candidates:

State Sen. Hollier, who reported almost $413,000 in the latest filing period, with more than $371,000 on hand, campaign finance records show.

State Rep. Shri Thanedar, a wealthy businessman who ran for governor in 2018.

  • Campaign finance records show Thanedar has the most cash of any candidate, reporting $5 million at the end of March.

Portia Roberson, the Michigan Civil Rights commissioner whose late candidacy was boosted by endorsements from AFT-Michigan, which represents Detroit public schools teachers.

Sharon McPhail, a former Detroit council member who's been part of the city's political scene for decades.

John Conyers III, the son of the longest serving Black congressman in U.S. history.

Former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, an educate advocate and Detroit Public School Board Member.

Michael Griffie, a civil rights attorney who currently heads external affairs for Teach for America's Detroit chapter.

Sam Riddle, 910 AM Superstation radio host and political consultant.

Lorrie Rutledge, the owner of a hair product company.

Bivings, the only Republican on the ballot, tells Axios he's a non-traditional Republican who supports school choice and reparations for African Americans.


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