Republicans swung and missed when it came to recruiting a top-tier candidate to run in Ingham County’s 8th Congressional District, leaving those leaning the GOP’s way a choice among four lightly funded political neophytes.
The emerging political might of freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the main reason. The former CIA analyst has shined in nearly every aspect of the job — policy knowledge, public engagement, competency and fundraising.
The latter can’t be understated. Slotkin is raising U.S. Senate-like money, far more than any other congressional incumbent or challenger in Michigan.
Up to now, Paul Junge is doing the best in terms or raising money and generating any outward support. He raised close a quarter of a million dollars in the first quarter of 2020, which is double that of his three opponents combined.
But to put it all in perspective, you could take Junge’s haul, multiply it by four and still not get what Slotkin raised in that same period.
Junge, 53, has been endorsed by the Orion Township (Oakland County) supervisor, former state Rep. Bill Rogers (older brother of former Congressman Mike Rogers), U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, the Livingston County sheriff and the American Conservative Union, among others.
The National Republican Campaign Committee also put the former FOX47 news anchor in its “contender category,” which means they’re keeping an eye on him.
The Brighton Republican has lived in Michigan off and on throughout his life. Prior to moving back to Michigan he was investigative counsel for U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and served in the Trump administration within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
He worked on Terri Lynn Land’s 2014 U.S. Senate campaign and spent some time as a deputy district attorney in Ventura County, Calif.
It was the latter experience that his political adversaries are honing in on in their political criticism. Back in 1994, Junge “barged into a defense attorney’s office to subpoena” a witness in a domestic violence case, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The judge declared a mistrial when he learned what happened and the District Attorney’s Office ended up having to apologize to the Public Defender’s Office about the incident.
“Elissa Slotkin and the Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of facing a carpetbagger like Paul Junge, especially as we learn more about the inappropriate behavior he engaged in as a Los Angeles deputy district attorney,” said Junge opponent Kristina Lyke, also an attorney who has represented domestic violence victims in the past.
Lyke, 43, runs an East Lansing law firm that specializes in family and criminal law. Originally from Pinckney, the Eastern Michigan University graduate worked for the Livingston County prosecutor as she attended law school at Cooley.
She served on the Pinckney City Council from 1999-2001. At the time, she was the youngest person to be elected to the board. She’s worked as a legislative assistant to former Rep. Paul DeWeese and an assistant to then-Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus.
She is framing herself as the most conservative option in the Republican field. Lyke supports term limits for members of Congress. At a forum earlier this year, she said the state should make it illegal for doctors or anyone else to perform abortions. Moreover, she predicted that if Roe V. Wade is overturned, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel would try to find a way around such a ruling.
"We will make sure she goes to jail if she doesn't abide by the laws," Lyke said.
Lyke also questioned how anyone could be Christian and not be pro-life.
Her political consultant is Scott Hagerstrom, who was the Michigan head of the Trump 2016 campaign and one of the state’s pre-eminent conservative authority figures, having also worked several years for Americans for Prosperity.
But it may be hard to go farther right than Mike Detmer, a darling of grassroots conservatives. Endorsed by former gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck, Detmer has a rock-solid core of supporters, which bring with it a reliable network of folks to help him spread his message. It also brings some concerns.
During the April 30 liberty protest, the 42-year-old Howell man posted a Facebook photo of himself with a group of a dozen protesters. A “Proud Boys” sign can be seen on the roof of a car behind the crowd. The Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed Proud Boys as an extremist organization, although the group bills itself as “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt.”
At a recent American Patriot Rally he spoke about “this whole race nonsense” as “fake.”
“If you are someone of faith, you understand that all lives matter and it was decided by the blood of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago,” he said.
A licensed real estate agent by trade, Detmer is the general sales manager of a car dealership and former vice president of Nova Mortgage Corp. in Bloomfield Hills.
Originally from northern Michigan, where his parents ran a Christmas tree farm, Detmer’s family ended up moving to Rochester when he was in high school. He graduated from Rochester Adams High and Oakland University, where he studied political science. From 1996 to 1998, he served as president of the Young Republicans.
With State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder unable to get the signatures needed to make the ballot, the last candidate in the field is 20-year military veteran Alan Hoover.
The 39-year-old Ortonville resident started three companies at various points — a construction company, a production label and a consulting company. Hoover has a compelling personal story, being raised by his mother who was constantly fleeing from abuse.
The Marine lived in 16 different cities in his youth. Hoover ran for the River Rouge City Council fresh out of high school and went into the military after he was unsuccessful in that bid.
He’s lived off and on in the 8th District for 12 years, nine years straight as an adult. He and his wife, Lara, have three children.
Hoover has earned the endorsement of the Michigan Republican Assembly. Interestingly, despite being the last of the field to hop into the race, he raised the second-most amount of money to Junge in the first quarter with $50,000.
To, again, put it in perspective, Slotkin raised 20 times more.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)