Michigan Voters Oust Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick


Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) lost her primary bid to retain her seat in Michigan’s 13th district last night. This marks the sixth incumbent this year, and the fourth House member, to fail in a primary challenge.

Rep. Kilpatrick lost to state Sen. Hansen Clark (D), a career politician representing Detroit. Clark’s message was simple: if the voters of Michigan’s 13th really want to remove Rep. Kilpatrick from office then he was the guy to do it.

Kilpatrick is the mother of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D). The Detroit Free Press called her loss “the end of a family dynasty.” While Hansen declined to campaign against Kilpatrick based on her family, the association was made for him by the press covering the primary race.

That last poll conducted before the election showed that 44 percent of the electorate had planed to cast a vote for someone other than Rep. Kilpatrick because of her son’s scandals; he is serving 18 months to 5 years for obstruction of justice, and is under indictment for several other charges, as Detroit’s mayor. Kilpatrick was recently removed from administrative segregation and allowed to rejoin general population at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan.

Rep. Kilpatrick won with a slim margin in her home base of Detroit, but it was not enough to offset the support that Hansen received from voters outside 8 Mile and Alter Road. Hansen’s strongest showing was in the suburbs, where he carried locals by a reported 3 to 1 margin. Of the almost 47,000 votes cast for five Democratic hopefuls in the 13th district, Hansen won with 47.3 percent of the vote.

Kilpatrick had faced difficult primary battles before; her bid to be reelected in 2008 was challenged by state Sen. Martha Scott and state Rep. Mary Waters, who split the anti-Kilpatrick vote. Waters came very close to beating Rep. Kilpatrick, gaining 19,183 votes to Kilpatrick’s 20,888.

Elected in 1996, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick has served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Transportation / HUD Committee. She served as the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 110th Congress.

Her loss will, no doubt, increase the level of apprehension felt by CBC members following revelations that at least two of its members are under investigation for ethics violations. Several members of the Caucus and Rev. Jesse Jackson traveled to Detroit over the week to help shore up support for Rep. Kilpatrick. She never received a formal endorsement from President Obama, despite his trip last week to MotorCity to address auto workers at a General Motors plant.

Hansen will face Grosse Pointe businessman, John Hauler, in November. However, Political handicapper Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voting Index gives this district a Democratic advantage of +31, and Kilpatrick’s most challenging general election resulted in her netting 74 percent of the vote. In this heavily Democratic district, it is Hansen’s seat to lose.

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at nrothman@campaignsandelections.com

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