Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

With Real Candidate, Dem Chances Improve in Michigan’s 7th District

Walberg is a Democratic target in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Walberg is a Democratic target in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats failed to get a top-tier candidate against Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., in 2012, and the congressman won re-election with 53 percent. This time around, Democrats are likely to nominate a spunky former legislator and make the 7th District a top target in 2014.

Pam Byrnes, 66, has had her share of wins and losses throughout her political career. But she should give Democrats a credible nominee in a competitive district. Mitt Romney carried the 7th 51 percent to 48 percent in 2012, while Barack Obama carried it 51 percent to 47 percent in 2008. In 2004, President George W. Bush carried the district handily, 55 percent to 44 percent.

Walberg was first elected in 2006 after he defeated Rep. Joe Schwarz in the Republican primary. Schwarz, a moderate, won his initial race in 2004 when multiple conservative candidates (including Walberg) divided the conservative vote in the primary. But when the field narrowed two years later, Walberg defeated Schwarz.

Walberg won that general election with 50 percent of the vote against Sharon Marie Renier. Democrat Mark Schauer defeated the congressman in 2008 but Walberg came back to defeat Schauer in 2010, 50 percent to 45 percent, riding the national GOP wave.

Last cycle, Democrats tried to recruit Schwarz to run as a Democrat against Walberg. But he declined, Democrats didn’t get a top-tier candidate and the incumbent won a race that wasn’t targeted.

This time, Democrats believe Byrnes will keep this seat in play.

Whether he’s running against a top candidate or not, Walberg never seems to get too far above 50 percent. Next year shouldn’t be an exception.

Michigan’s 7th District is now rated Republican Favored (from Safe Republican) according to Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. But the race could get even more competitive.

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