Tea party candidate Kerry Bentivolio won the Republican primary in Michigan's 11th District Tuesday night, outlasting a write-in challenge mounted by the local party establishment and opening a small window of opportunity for Democrats in a seat that was nowhere near their radar earlier this cycle.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, Bentivolio claimed 65 percent of the Republican primary vote, with the remainder going to write-in votes. The bulk of the ballots were probably for former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, the consensus write-in challenger, but they did not approach a majority and the Associated Press called the race for Bentivolio.
Bentivolio, a reindeer farmer, was left as the only Republican on the 11th District primary ballot after then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, who later resigned, failed to submit enough valid petition signatures. But his Ron Paul-aligned views worried local Republicans, who coalesced around Cassis as a write-in alternative to keep the seat from becoming vulnerable. (President Obama won 50 percent of the vote there in 2008.
Cassis had even said that she could not support Bentivolio in the general election, after revelations that Bentivolio had acted in a low-budget, Michigan-made film that blamed a thinly-veiled George W. Bush-like character for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But Bentivolio got over a half-million dollars of aid from a Paul-aligned super PAC, which Cassis couldn't overcome without her name on the ballot.
Now, Democratic physician Syed Taj has a real opportunity against Bentivolio, though he'll have to pick up his fundraising -- especially if Bentivolio continues to draw help from potent outside groups. Taj overcame his own unusual primary Tuesday night, defeating a Lyndon LaRouche supporter for the Democratic nomination. The Associated Press called the race for Taj, who led Bill Roberts 61 percent to 39 percent with 72 percent of precincts reporting.