Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

November 10, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Benson to run hard race for Congress

There’s no doubt that Jocelyn Benson has a stunning record of accomplishment - or that she is one of the potentially hottest political properties in Michigan.

Three years ago, she lost a race for secretary of state - but led the Democratic ticket in what was a huge Republican year.

Now, she faces a difficult choice. She has one of the most important and visible legal jobs in the state. Barely 36, she is interim dean of the Wayne State University law school, and seen as likely to get the job on a full-time basis -- if she decides that‘s what she wants.

But she is now thinking about leaving that job to risk her entire career in a run for Congress. In a district that is normally Republican, and where she would likely face a contested Democratic primary as well.

“Yes, it is a difficult choice,” she said over lunch last week. “This is a tremendous job and there is so much more I want to do here.“

“But many people are urging me to run. My husband wants me to run, and I really want to be a voice for military families.”

The seat in question is the Eleventh Congressional District, which is normally Republican - and includes an assortment of mainly affluent Wayne and Oakland county suburbs.

U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, won election last year on a fluke, after long-time incumbent Thaddeus McCotter was kicked off the primary district for fraudulent signatures.

Bentivolio, a reindeer trainer and amateur Santa Claus, holds tea party views so extreme that GOP establishment leaders are attempting to defeat him in next August’s primary with a more conventional conservative, David Trott, a foreclosure attorney.

Trott will have big bucks behind him, but primary elections tend to draw more extreme voters, and it isn’t clear who will prevail. Additionally, Democratic State Chair Lon Johnson already has recruited a candidate, Bobby McKenzie, 39, a former U.S. State Department official. McKenzie says he’s not getting out even if Benson gets in, setting up a potential situation one high party official succinctly called “a mess.”

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