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GOP’s Tug of War in 11th District

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Nancy Cassis is hoping to win the 11th District as a write-in candidate.

Nancy Cassis is hoping to win the 11th District as a write-in candidate.

(credit: WWJ-TV) Carol Cain
An Emmy Award winning journalist, Carol Cain is also the se...
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By Carol Cain
CBS  62

The hasty exodus of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter  from the GOP’s 11th Congressional District race left a fierce tug of war pitting a Tea Party activist against a GOP traditionalist. They’re duking it out to sway voters at the polls today.

With voters across Michigan heading to polls,  the race getting a lot of attention is the one with Kerry Bentivolio, a  former Reindeer rancher who is the only Republican left on the ballot in the 11th,  facing  former state Sen. Nancy Cassis as a GOP write in candidate.

There is another GOP write in candidate too– Rev. Drexel Morton. Two Democrats — William Roberts and Taj Syed – are vying against each other on the ballot.

But it is the Bentivolio-Cassis  faceoff gaining attention and expected to  be a nail biter with results not known until well after polls close at 8 p.m. Some say it could come down to the counting of absentee ballots.

“Professional political consultants have told me that this is the nastiest primary campaign that they have ever seen,” Bentivolio told me.

“We will win because people are tired of career politicians. Politics as usual turns people off. We believe that we have a lead among absentees already and think we win among election day voters as well,” he added.

Cassis, who has represented one third of the newly constructed  11th district before as state senator, said she has left nothing to chance in her first campaign as a write in candidate.

“The write in candidate is a very unique type of election,” Cassis said, adding she has been handing out wrist lancelots with her name so people remember to write it on their ballot.

After McCotter failed to make the ballot and then shocked the GOP establishment by quitting,  Cassis found she had mere weeks  to gear up versus the nearly year long process she has spent on previous races.

“Nothing fancy, just write in Nancy,” Cassis says of  the slogan her staff came up with.

“I feel very calm about it because I have an established, well recognized career with so many people supporting me,” she said. “I think when it all over with, I will win.”

Voter turnout may be her biggest opponent as is the case with all the candidates vying in Michigan’s primary as it is  taking place in the summer when many are on vacation.

Add in the bruising Republican presidential primary in Michigan in February and you have a voting body that may be fatigued.

“A lot of people turned out to vote in the February presidential primary and feel like they’ve already done their civic duty, “ said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Still the primary continues with contests getting attention including the U.S. Republican Senate race where Pete Hoekstra, Clark Durant and Randy Hekman are facing off.

The winner will go on to battle Sen. Debbie Stabenow in the fall election

Hoekstra of Holland has an advantage in money and name recognition over Durant, co-founder of Cornerstone Schools, and former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman.

Hoekstra, a former longtime congressman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, told me that momentum has helped.

“The positive thing this time around is we were able to build off of the statewide organization and support from the 2010 governor’s race,” Hoekstra said.

Hekman knew the race would be tough.

“Judging from the various polls that predict widely divergent results, and assuming the predicted low voter turnout proves to be accurate, I believe we are going to do much better than expected,” Hekman said.

In the 14th Congressional District, well known Reps. Hansen Clark and Gary Peters, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Grosse Pointe lawyer Bob Costello and former Rep. Mary Waters are in a bruising battle.

Peters leads in the money battle and in most of the polls.  John Hauler is the only GOP in the race.

Rep. John Conyers is  running a 25th time and  facing state Sen. Bert Johnson, state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, Wayne Westland school board member John Goci and Glenn Anderson on the Democratic ballot in the 13th Congressional District.  Harry Sawicki is lone GOP on the ballot.

The regional tax hike for the Detroit Institute of Arts before Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county votes is another  eliciting strong dialogue.

“When the DIA was spun off in 1998, it was assumed they would be an enterprise on to themselves. They didn’t say they would then need a tax hike,” political commentator Bill Johnson said.

(Come back to cbsdetroit.com for more election results. Watch “Michigan Matters”  at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS62 when the primary is debated with Cain and her political pundits.)

(Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of CBS62’s “Michigan Matters.”  She writes about politics and business in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at clcain@cbs.com)

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