Rogers’ Retirement Makes Michigan 8 More Competitive

by Nathan L. Gonzales March 28, 2014 · 12:02 PM EDT

These Republican retirements must be driving Democratic strategists crazy. Some tantalizing districts have come open as formidable Republican incumbents have announced their retirements, but the midterm election environment is turning out to be very tough terrain for Democrats. And that makes it difficult for Democrats to take over those districts, which they certainly would have won in 2006 and 2008 (and possibly in 2012, as well), had they been open seats at that time.

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers is the latest Republican to announce his retirement. He leaves behind an 8th District that Mitt Romney carried with just 51 percent in the 2012 presidential election and Barack Obama won with 52 percent four years earlier. In 2004, President George W. Bush won the 8th with 54 percent.

Rogers is the 22nd member of the House to retire this cycle without seeking another office. From 1976 to 2012, the average and median number of House retirements was 22.

The 8th District falls into a growing list of districts that Democrats have been salivating over for years that are now open. These districts include Virginia’s 10th District, Pennsylvania’s 6th District, New Jersey’s 3rd District and Iowa’s 3rd District. But these GOP incumbents may be doing their party a favor by retiring during this cycle, when the political environment looks to be favoring the Republican Party.

Even though the open seat contest in Michigan’s 8th District is just developing, the district’s fundamentals suggest a Democratic opportunity without Rogers on the ballot. We’re changing our Rothenberg Political Report rating of the race from Safe Republican to Lean Republican.

So who will run to replace Rogers?

National Republicans named former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former state Speaker Craig DeRoche as possible contenders. One local Republican source named state Sen. Rick Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff in the Lansing suburbs, and young state Sen. Joe Hune as possible candidates. The source said multiple wealthy businessmen would likely take a look as well. The Washington Post mentioned Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who has lost statewide bids in 2006 and 2010.

And National Journal suggested the congressman’s older brother Bill could be a potential candidate. He is a term-limited state representative whose district overlaps part of the 8th District. Rogers, 60, has a reputation of being a mature and sincere legislator.

On the Democratic side, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum is receiving early mention. She is the daughter of Dianne Byrum, who lost to Mike Rogers in 2000 by 111 votes after an extended recount in the open seat race to replace Democrat Debbie Stabenow when she was elected to the Senate. Barb succeeded her mother into the state House and would likely receive significant support from national women’s groups if she decides to run.

The filing deadline is April 22 and the primaries are Aug 5.