A loss of Democrat-held seats in the U.S. House and Senate could impact the likelihood of Michigan members of Congress joining President-elect Joe Biden’s White House.
House Democrats who could make attractive candidates for jobs in the Biden administration would need to be replaced in a special election, giving Michigan Republicans another chance to pick up critical seats in Congress. Democrats hold a fragile majority in the U.S. House, while Republicans have so far maintained their majority in the Senate.
U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, and Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, are among the top prospects for Biden Cabinet positions. Slotkin’s experience in the CIA and Pentagon has reportedly driven her consideration for CIA director, while several unions have endorsed Levin to lead the Department of Labor.
Adrian Hemond, co-founder of political consulting firm Grassroots Midwest, said the political consequences of replacing Democrats in Congress is an important consideration for the Biden administration and state party organizations.
David Dulio, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University, said the Biden White House will have to balance creating a successful administration with protecting friendly seats in Congress. For now, Dulio said Biden appears to be focused on selecting career professionals instead of elected officials.
Slotkin was reelected by just under 15,400 votes in a district she flipped in 2018. Plucking her from Michigan’s 8th District would give the GOP an opportunity to reclaim a seat occupied by Republicans since 2001.
“I think the key question is who the Democrats would run,” Dulio said. “I think Slotkin is a good fit for that district. She’s positioned herself as a centrist and a pragmatist and that’s a position of strength for her to run in a Republican district. Can Democrats find somebody else like that? I don’t know.”
Slotkin’s national security experience reportedly makes her an attractive candidate to lead the CIA. She served as an analyst in the agency under former President George W. Bush. She also served three tours in Iraq as a militia expert, was a senior assistant to the Director of National Intelligence and a policy director for the National Security Council, and worked at the State Department under the Obama administration.
Mario Morrow Sr., a political consultant and president of communications firm Mario Morrow & Associates, said securing Slotkin’s competitive seat could be a determining factor in whether she’s offered a position in the Biden administration.
“For her, it would be great. For the district, if you’re a Democrat, you might be a little nervous,” Morrow said. “It can go either way. Do you really want to give up a seat to gain a person in the cabinet? You normally take somebody out of their congressional senate seat if you’re guaranteed that that seat will go to someone of your party. So that might be a roll of the dice, even though she has the experience, she’s well-liked and has the ability.”
Levin, a former union organizer, has the support of several labor groups to lead the Department of Labor. The United Auto Workers, the Utility Workers Union of America, National Nurses United and the Communication Workers of America submitted letters of endorsement to the Biden transition team.
“Levin makes a ton of sense,” Hemond said. “He’s well connected with the organized labor community, which is a core Democratic constituency, and bringing him on board would make them happy.”
The congressman has held a number of positions with labor movements throughout his career. Levin was an organizer with the Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO. Levin also served as deputy director in the Michigan Department of Energy Labor and Economic Growth under Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Morrow, who worked with Levin during the Granholm administration, said the congressman is a “serious contender” to lead the Department of Labor.
“He’s definitely been around labor pretty much all his life,” Morrow said. “He understands the unions, understands the workforce and he definitely understands government … I think Andy Levin’s candidacy probably has better odds because he has a lot of people pushing his name. Unions were instrumental with getting Joe Biden elected and the unions need a friend in Washington.”
Levin sailed to reelection in Michigan’s 9th District, winning by 77,000 votes. His father Sander Levin previously held the seat, which leans Democrat, but has changed configuration several times through redistricting.
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