The race for the 7th is beginning to form

Schor forms exploratory committee, Barrett ‘moving’ toward second run; Byrum thinking it over; Singh is out


FRIDAY, March 3 — Following Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s announcement yesterday that he has formed an exploratory committee to run for the 7th district congressional seat, one Democrat confirmed she is considering a run and another said he is out.

“There might be a path to win,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said about her chances to capture the Democratic nomination next year.

But state Sen. Sam Singh said, “With a Democratic majority in the Senate, that’s a good place to be, so I won’t be running.”

Two others who reportedly are interested, state Sen. Sarah Anthony and state Rep. Julie Brixie, did not return calls.

Bryrum, 45, said she would be “crazy” not to consider running. Schor’s announcement will not impact her decision-making process, she said.

Bryum, a former state representative who is in her third term as clerk, is the daughter of MSU Trustee Diane Byrum, who narrowly missed winning a congressional seat from Lansing in 2000, when Republican Mike Rogers beat her by a handful of votes.

Back then, Lansing was in the 8th District. Barb Byrum said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee once approached her about running in that district, but “I didn’t see a path forward there to win,” unlike today.

On the Republican side, former state Sen. Tom Barrett is considering another run after losing to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin last November. Slotkin has announced she is not running again in order to pursue the U.S. Senate nomination next year.

Singh said any candidate in the race will need to raise “somewhere in the $9-$11 million window to be competitive.”

The reason? The district stretches over three television markets, including Flint and Detroit, with some of the most expensive television advertising rates in Michigan. Lansing is the third market. 

“I think that district will be one of the most expensive races in the nation,” Singh said. “Just looking at all the super PAC money that was spent in the last cycle, it’s expensive.” Slotkin spent $9 million, and Schor said he would have to raise that much.

What makes running so expensive is how competitive a district it is, said Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University. He said the 7th District is pretty much a 50-50 Democrat/Republican split.

Slotkin beat Barrett by 5%, but Grossman said, “Slotkin had a unique resume that not many people can compete with. She had that national security background and experience working for Democratic and Republican presidents. She put that in every television commercial. But that’s just not something every candidate will have.”

While the 50-50 split sounded accurate to Lansing political consultant Mark Grebner, he said he personally thought the district leaned “slightly more Republican.”

Grebner also questioned Schor’s move to plant himself in the center.

“I’m not sure what somebody gains by sitting to the right, or more conservative, of where most Democrats are for a Democratic primary,” he said. 

Bryum wouldn’t say if she was a centrist, instead noting that she was “probably more conservative on some things” and “more progressive on others” than Schor. 

Singh said there are several names floating around — “either by others or from the candidates who want to see their name in the paper for a week or two” — but the shape of the primary is barely even beginning to form. Singh said it was likely Democrats won’t know who the nominee is for “nine or ten months — or later.” 

“There’s a lot that can happen,” he said. “But with the amount of money that is going to be required to hold that seat, it’s no wonder people are getting out there right now. Just because we have been elected to a city council or state representative or state senator even does not mean we have the ability to raise that kind of money. It’s a tremendous amount of work.”

On the GOP side, Barrett is “moving in that direction” of running again, said consultant Jason Roe in a phone interview. 

In an apparent swipe at Barrett, who Singh said ran on “culture war issues” last year, Schor said, “We don’t need a liberal, and we don’t need someone from the radical right.”

Roe declined to respond to the comment, noting that Barrett and the Republicans were happy to sit back and watch the Democrats fight in a primary. “We’re happy to hold their coats while they do that.”


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