With one possible exception, the hottest action in this year's Michigan's congressional campaigns will be far downstate, where some incumbents face stiff primary competition in part because of redistricting and also because of rise of the right in the GOP.
The exception is in the sprawling, 31-county, northernmost 1st District, where freshman Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, faces a rematch with his 2010 opponent — ex-state Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, who will get substantial national financial backing from the Democratic quest to gain House control.
Former 1st District Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who in 2010 declined to seek a 10th term, plans to attend a McDowell fundraiser June 11 at Black Star Farms in Leelanau County.
While Benishek could have a competitive race, the two other northern Michigan congressmen have little worry.
In fact, freshmen 2nd District Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, has no Democratic opponent in Michigan's most conservative district. His current three northernmost counties, out of 11, are Benzie, Manistee and Wexford.
Eleven-term 4th District Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is assured of yet another term in a district where he has been a consistent easy winner since first winning the seat in 1990 after a narrow primary win.
Camp, whose three northernmost counties in his current 14-county district include Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska, is a strong supporter of Benishek. Redistricting puts much of the Grand Traverse region in the new 1st District.
Not surprisingly, Benishek — whose district campaign headquarters wisely is in Traverse City — and McDowell have made recent visits to the area. McDowell was in the city last week as part of his "Save Our Retirement" tour.
Michigan currently has 15 House members — nine Republicans and six Democrats. Because of Michigan population loss in relation to other states, it will as of 2013 have only 14.
Downstate districts meriting watch:
- 6th District: 13-term Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has replaced Democrat John Dingell of Dearborn, dean of the House who ruled the committee when Democrats controlled the House. Back in 1995 he was a member of the "Tuesday Group," then described by the Almanac of American Politics as a band of 40 or so moderate Republicans. He later said his party had become "narrow" and "intolerant." Once again, Upton this year is challenged in the primary by ex-state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk of Kalamazoo, a conservative crusader who got 43 percent of the primary vote in 2010.
- 13th District (79% Democratic base): Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, first elected way back in 1964, has an assortment of state legislators challenging him in the primary. Inside Michigan Politics newsletter notes much of the remapped district "is virgin territory that he's never represented, most of it heavily white." He's not.
- 14th District (most heavily Democratic base in the state, 85%): Primary opponents in the new district into which white Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, will be moving include black Detroiter U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke.
George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.