Voters in the Michigan 11th Congressional District will choose a new member of Congress in November. Democrats may be set up for a gain opportunity in a traditionally Republican district.
Incumbent Republican Dave Trott is leaving Congress after serving just two terms. His departure creates a problem for his party as they attempt to replace him in a perceived Democratic year.
One would not necessarily think that this would be a top Democratic target, based on the facts available. Donald Trump and even Mitt Romney carried the district, and both of Trott’s runs were reasonably comfortable victories. The fear for Republicans is if suburban voters are going to turn their backs on the GOP.
2018 Michigan 11th Congressional District Race: Our Rating
Michigan-11 is rated as a Democratic GAIN (weak lean) as of September 23, 2018.
You can see all of our current 2018 US House ratings at its special page.
Michigan 11th Congressional District Profile
The 11th District is a suburban Detroit seat. Some of the key population centers within it include Livonia, Novi, Canton, Auburn Hills, and Troy. This district snakes around the suburbs and enters Wayne County, but does not take in any part of heavily-Democratic Detroit.
Michigan-11 is a Republican seat going back decades. The Democrats have held it only for two months over the past 50 years. (Granted, the boundaries and the location have shifted around Michigan over that time.) David Curson (D) represented this district from November 2012 to January 2013 after a special election to fill Thad McCotter’s vacancy. However, he did not win the general election, and the district resumed its red tint.
The last time a Democrat won election to a full term in Michigan-11 was in 1964, a year in which that party won a two-thirds House majority. Without question, the 11th has been fertile ground for Republican political interests.
Demographically, the district was determined to be 82.2 percent white in the 2010 census. Charlie Cook’s PVI rating for this district is R+4, making it slightly more Republican than the national average.
2018 Michigan 11th Congressional District Candidates
Republican: Lena Epstein. She is a businesswoman and co-owner of Vesco Oil Corporation. Epstein also has ties to Donald Trump as she was his Michigan campaign co-chair. Lena Epstein is making her first run for elective office. She did her undergrad at Harvard and received her MBA from the University of Michigan.
Democratic: Haley Stevens. She is a former official in the Obama Administration, notably serving as the chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department’s Auto Task Force, also known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Auto Rescue. In layman’s terms, that was the auto industry bailout. Stevens fought her way through a tight Democratic primary, winning with 27 percent of the vote in a five-way race. She graduated both undergraduate and graduate school from American University.
Independent: Cooper Nye. Nye is 25 years old running on a moderate, “throw the bums out” platform (our words, not his). This is his first run for political office. He is an alumnus of Michigan State University.
Libertarian: Leonard Schwartz. Like Nye, Schwartz is a third-party candidate seeking the votes of former disaffected supporters of the two-party system. Schwartz is an economist and lawyer who graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 1979. His website also features the Spaceballs quote you think it does, so tip your cap to that.
Why The 2018 Michigan 11th Congressional District Race Is One To Watch
Yes, Republicans seem to have advantages here, but is this the sort of year where a Cook R+4 seat is safe? Much less a seat in which the incumbent is not running? Trott would have had an easier time — note that we said easier, not easy. Stevens is garnering the support you would expect her to get from unions, and she is getting favorable media. Kindly note, however, that Epstein made that 40 Under 40 list as well.
The two major-party candidates come from widely different political realms, with one being a campaign deputy and staunch ally of Donald Trump and the other having worked for Barack Obama. Some call it a proxy Trump vs. Obama race. This 11th District matters because what happens here may play out in the suburbs elsewhere in the country. It will tell us if suburbanites in the Midwest are bailing on the Republicans, or if the GOP can hold a close, open seat that Trump carried. Trump and the GOP had their share of successes in the Midwest in 2016, but now it’s time for them to prove if they can maintain them. (A notable exception being Pennsylvania-18, which may not technically be the Midwest but is close enough.)
Not that this seat was a GOP slam dunk the last election, but Dave Trott was not in trouble in either of his two campaigns. Stevens has a good chance of winning this seat for the Democrats, in the best chance they have had in this district in a long while. Epstein cannot be ruled out because of the district’s bent and her ability to self-fund.
And As For The President?
If the election is about Trump, then one would assume Epstein has the advantage in that her former candidate carried her district. However, the president’s approval ratings in the state are running a few points behind the vote percentage he achieved when he carried Michigan in 2016. Further, Democrats enjoyed a significant advantage in the generic US House ballot in the Great Lakes State. This could translate to not one but two Democratic gains in Michigan on election night.
Republicans will fight hard to keep the seat, but if there is an actual Blue Wave in November, this will be the seat in Michigan it claims.