U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee has traveled back-and-forth from his home state of Michigan to Washington, D.C., for the last 10 years, and he had planned on doing that for another term representing Central Michigan. But after considering the pros and cons, he surprised himself by deciding to retire.

“It occurred to me that the personal sacrifice that a member of Congress makes has to be measured against what the sacrifice achieves,” said Kildee (D-Flint). “The personal choices we make are in the context of the work that we’re doing in Washington and when it has turned, as it has, to such an angry place it makes it more difficult to justify that sacrifice.”

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint announced last week that after finishing his term representing the 8th District, Kildee will serve as the next president and CEO of the nonprofit organization based in Genesee County.

Forty-four members of the House of Representatives have announced they will not be seeking reelection in November. Although slightly more Democrats have announced their retirements, experts said the overall number is not as important as the fact that several Democrats are retiring from crucial swing districts.

“What is more meaningful is that the Democrats are defending more competitive open seats than the Republicans are,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Republicans, who hold a majority of 219-213 in the House, seek to grow that majority in November. In March, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued (NRCC) a press release listing 37 offensive pick-up opportunities in the 2024 House race. Included in the list were four districts identified as highly competitive this election cycle: California’s 47th District, Michigan’s 7th and 8th Districts and Virginia’s 7th District, all seats Democrats are vacating.

“In all four of those instances they’d probably be better off if the incumbent was running,” Kondik said. Of the four, though, “the two Michigan seats are the most attractive open seat targets for the Republicans.”

When Kildee, who was diagnosed with cancer and underwent successful treatment early last year, announced his retirement in November, the NRCC seemed to salivate over the news of the vacant seat and released a statement saying: “Republicans are looking forward to flipping this seat red.”

When asked if he believed his seat in Michigan’s 8th District — which includes the city of Flint; Saginaw and Bay counties, most of Genesee County; and parts of Midland and Tuscola counties — would stay in Democratic hands, Kildee expressed confidence in the electorate.

“I’m confident that it can because we’ve demonstrated that it’s possible. In 2022, for example, I won by more than 10 points against a very well-funded challenger, but it’s not automatic by any stretch,” Kildee said. “This one is an honest-to-goodness toss-up.”

Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Holly announced her retirement early last year from Michigan’s other competitive seat, the 7th District. She is hoping to take the seat left open by retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) after serving in the House for six years.

Slotkin flipped a Republican seat in 2018. Then, in 2022, after the geographic footprint of her district was redrawn to include the city of Lansing; Clinton, Shiawassee, Ingham and Livingston counties; and sections of Eaton and Oakland counties, Slotkin won in one of the most competitive House races of the election cycle. Her open seat, like Kildee’s, provides Republicans with another “path to growing the Republican majority,” according to a statement from NRCC spokesperson Jack Pandol.

“The NRCC is all hands on deck to add this seat to the Republican column in 2024,” Pandol continued.

Despite the vulnerability of her open seat, Slotkin told MSNBC during a February 2023 interview that Michiganders would continue to reject the Republican Party’s “extreme candidates” in 2024 as they did in 2022 when Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won reelection by 11 points.

“We heard very loud and clear from our governor’s race on down that people don’t want that in our state,” Slotkin said. “If they [Republicans] keep putting up these candidates, we’re going to keep beating them, and beating them, and beating them until they decide they want to do something else.”

Democrats suggest that the Michigan Republican Party’s internal struggles may make it difficult for them to flip seats in swing districts.

“The Republican Party in Michigan is completely flat footed as a result of their internal drama. They’re not organizing for 2024. They’re in a really tough spot, so I don’t know that the drama affects voters, but the drama clearly handicaps their ability to communicate with voters effectively,” Kildee said.

Following fundraising struggles and intraparty fighting, Chairwoman Kristina Karamo was voted out by almost half of the state party’s voting members last month. In a video released on the social media platform X, Karamo expressed no intent to step down from her position as chair following the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) recognition of her removal.

The Michigan Republican Party did not respond to a request for a comment.

Last month, House Democrats announced former state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) as the candidate they are endorsing for Slotkin’s 7th District seat. Hertel led Whitmer’s policy team that helped push bipartisan gun safety legislation in Michigan following the February 2023 Michigan State University mass shooting that killed three students.

He will run against Slotkin’s 2022 Republican challenger, former state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), who has been endorsed by Americans for Prosperity, the deep-pocketed super PAC backing GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Barrett was also endorsed by U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner.

Republican Paul Junge, Kildee’s well-funded challenger from 2022, is back in the race to fill Kildee’s seat in the 8th District. He formerly worked in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Trump administration. Martin Blank, a veteran, doctor and police officer is also running as a Republican.

First-term state Sen. Kristin McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) has entered the 8th District race as a Democrat. She is the first Democrat in over a decade to represent the Great Lakes Bay Region in the Michigan Senate. Pamela Pugh, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, and Daniel Moilanen, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, are also running as Democrats for the 8th District.

Michigan’s congressional primary is Tuesday, Aug. 6.

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