LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Democratic counterterrorism expert said Thursday he will run for Congress in a Republican-leaning suburban Detroit district marked by an unusual turn of events that Democrats hope to capitalize on in 2014.
Bobby McKenzie, of Wayne County's Canton Township, is a former walk-on on the 1997-98 Michigan State University basketball team who later worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department.
"I'm honored to run for Congress in Michigan's 11th," the 39-year-old said in a statement. "Too often, it has been represented by politicians who put their own interests, ideologies and agendas before the needs of the people."
First-term Republican Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford won the seat last year after five-term incumbent Republican Thad McCotter submitted fraudulent signatures at the filing deadline and later resigned. Bentivolio — a tea party-backed reindeer farmer, military veteran and former teacher — is facing a primary challenge from foreclosure lawyer and GOP donor Dave Trott, who already reports having more cash on hand than Bentivolio.
"The men and women of this district deserve better than a divisive Tea Party extremist like Kerry Bentivolio, and we deserve better than the prospect of David Trott, a man who made a fortune off the bankruptcies and foreclosures that have devastated our region," McKenzie said in his written statement.
Michigan Democrats recruited McKenzie to run in hopes of avoiding a primary. But Wayne State University Law School interim dean Jocelyn Benson, a higher-profile Democrat who ran for secretary of state in 2010, is exploring a run in the wake of the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling fight.
Bentivolio spokesman Matt Chisholm said McKenzie would be another rubber stamp for President Barack Obama. Chisolm said the congressman looks forward to debating McKenzie over the federal health care law.
Trott campaign manager Megan Piwowar said McKenzie has already begun "liberal smear attacks" and that Trott is the only candidate who has created jobs. Trott has lined up endorsements from leading Republicans disaffected with Bentivolio.
McKenzie was raised in Dearborn Heights. He earned an economics degree from Michigan State and a master's in security studies from Georgetown University.
The GOP holds a 9-5 edge in Michigan's House delegation. Democrats are hoping to target the 11th District as well as the sprawling 1st in northern Michigan and the 7th in the southern part of the state. Those seats are held by Republicans Dan Benishek and Tim Walberg respectively.
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