(DETROIT) — GOP Rep. Kerry Bentivolio became the third incumbent to fall this cycle, losing his primary for Michigan’s 11th district to foreclosure attorney David Trott.
Bentivolio – a former reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator – was somewhat of the “accidental congressman” and far from your traditional incumbent.
He was propelled into Congress in 2012 after former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was disqualified for having forged signatures on his campaign petition and ultimately resigned his seat. Bentivolio, who had widely been considered a long shot to win the Republican primary, was the other option.
The other two incumbents to fall this cycle were 91-year-old Ralph Hall of Texas, the oldest member of Congress, and the shocker, former majority leader Eric Cantor.
Despite Bentivolio’s incumbency, Trott was always a serious opponent. A multimillionaire known as the “foreclosure king” in this suburban Detroit district, he led the conservative Bentivolio both in polling and fundraising and he tried to tack to the political center. He also advertised far more heavily and had establishment backing including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as Michigan native Mitt Romney, who came to the district to campaign with him.
Michael Traugott, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, called Bentivolio’s initial win just a matter of “stars colliding” and more a “fluke” than anything else, citing Bentivolio’s “unorthodox behavior,” as well as his background.
Traugott notes this specific race “does not have any enduring implication about the power of incumbency.”
“The party went out with some deliberate action to find someone to run against him in the primary that they think would be a more stable and potential long0term holder of the seat,” Traugott said, adding Republicans are afraid that in a general election a Democrat could pose a serious general election threat “despite the overwhelming advantage with party I.D. in the district.”
“They want to control the district in a more reliable fashion,” Traugott said.
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