Three Republicans in running for GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell
Nothing’s ever certain in politics. But it’s exceedingly likely that whoever wins the Republican nomination on Aug. 4 in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District is going to be heading to the nation’s Capitol next January.
This is, after all, a district — running from northern and eastern Macomb County north through the Thumb — where U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, won twice by upwards of 25 percentage points and where President Donald Trump won by 32 points.
In other words, even though Mitchell is stepping down after just two terms and the seat is open, it’s almost certain to remain in Republican control barring a total surprise.
In the running for the Republican nomination are three candidates: state Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron; businesswoman Lisa McClain, and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum, a former commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, who, on paper, looks to be a viable candidate and has raised nearly $460,000, but has been somewhat less visible than the other two.
“There are three quality candidates who the Republicans have come up with,” noted Bill Ballenger, a political pundit with the Michigan-based Ballenger Report.
What buzz there has been in the race has largely surrounded McClain, of Bruce Township, a first-time candidate and self-proclaimed “conservative outsider” who can lay a legitimate claim to being a success in business, having risen to the position of senior vice president of Hantz Group, a financial services company with some 700 employees, and Hernandez, who worked at an architectural firm in Port Huron before being elected to the state House in 2016.
The three candidates all profess conservative beliefs. On his website, Slocum, a pilot, says he “took a vow to uphold and defend the Constitution, as well as to bear true faith and allegiance to this country” and that he will “never un-take that oath.” Hernandez and McClain both say they adhere to Republican traditions calling for shrinking government, banning abortions and protecting borders and businesses.
All three say they are supporters of President Donald Trump.
Whoever wins the GOP primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary which includes Kimberly Bizon, a web director who was the nominee two years ago and lost to Mitchell, and Kelly Noland, who worked as a nurse for some 30 years.
McClain said she had long thought about running after being involved in local projects and charitable fundraisers, but decided to do so now because she and her husband are about to become empty-nesters with their youngest daughter about to be a senior in high school. She says, however, that it’s her business experience — which has meant working with people of all political stripes, solving problems and making payroll — that sets her apart.
“As a country, we need to focus on building things up, not tearing things down,” she told the Free Press. “If you turn on the media, if you talk to people, it’s negative. … I’m not saying we’re perfect. … But we’ve got to start working together as a country, as a district. … Sometimes, we just get lost in all the negativity. … It’s time for a breath of fresh air.” An energetic speaker and campaigner, she said when she decides to do something, “I do it all in.”
It’s Hernandez, though, who has scored the biggest endorsement of the primary, with Mitchell weighing in on his behalf in a TV ad paid for by the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth and calling Hernandez “the only conservative candidate in this race” and saying the others are “imposters.”
Hernandez, whose father worked at a pickle factory, said at a debate in Lapeer County this month that as a boy he didn’t think he could even meet his member of Congress, forget run for the office. “This is a blue-collar district,” he said. “I believe I have a story to tell. … These are not the stories people hear about the Republican Party today.”
Hernandez has become a Republican leader in Lansing, having risen to the position of chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
McClain has taken some questions about contributions she made some years ago to former state Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, who later pleaded guilty to paying a woman with state funds despite the fact she did no work. Describing it as a huge “mistake,” McClain said the donation was part of Hantz Group’s effort to reach out to Johnson for support on a project to raze abandoned property in Detroit and grow trees. She said there are about 15,000 trees growing there now.
“I still believe in people. Do I wish things turned out differently for him? I really do,” she said, noting that other Republicans — Trump and Republican Senate nominee John James to mention two — have also given to Democrats in the past.
Meanwhile, McClain is airing an attack ad of her own, noting comments made by Hernandez to Gongwer News Service in July 2016 in which he acknowledged that Trump wasn’t his first or second choice for president — which was the case of many Republicans that year who later threw their support behind him — and that while he believed strong border controls were needed, he considered Trump’s demand for a physical wall along the entire southern border “ridiculous.”
Hernandez’s campaign said there was no question of his support for Trump in 2016, showing photos of him with then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence less than a month before the election. The campaign suggested there is no evidence of McClain “lifting a finger” to elect Trump.
As to who has the edge in the race, there’s been little-to-no independent polling so it’s hard to say. Hernandez has the endorsement and political experience in the district, and McClain appears to be getting her share of attention. As for Slocum, it’s worth remembering a Republican primary in 2016 when two Up North Republicans with political experience and name recognition — former state Sens. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and Jason Allen of Traverse City — were considered the favorites to win and replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek.
Instead, it was Jack Bergman, a retired Marine general and transplant to tiny Watersmeet on the Upper Peninsula, who upset the two favorites and was elected to the U.S. House.
10th Congressional District primaries
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, is stepping down after two terms of representing this district that runs from northern and eastern Macomb County through the Thumb. Whoever wins the Republican primary has a huge leg up because of the makeup of the district.
Here’s who is running:
State Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron
Lisa McClain, a Bruce Township businesswoman
Retired Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum, a former commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base
Kimberly Bizon, of Lexington, a web director for a media agency who lost to Mitchell as the Democratic nominee two years ago
Kelly Noland, of Chesterfield, a nurse