The sudden resignation of Rep. Thad McCotter led to a tumultuous Republican primary in Michigan's 11th District, but the fallout may also mean a competitive general election for a seat thought until recently to be safely in the GOP column. At least, that's what Syed Taj is counting on.
The Democratic nominee, a physician and member of the Canton Township Board of Trustees, is optimistic about his chances as he gears up for November. "I think I should be able to win this seat," Taj said. He pointed to Republican division and his own crossover appeal as evidence.
Turnout in the Republican primary exceeded the Democratic contest by nearly 30,000 votes, but Taj doesn't see that as a reason for discouragement. "The voter turnout was not because of the congressional race," Taj said, "it was because of the (GOP) Senate race. " Sen. Debbie Stabenow ran uncontested on the Democratic side of the ticket, while former Rep. Pete Hoekstra faced challengers for the GOP nomination.
Republican nominee Kerry Bentivolio drew considerably more primary votes than Taj, but Taj said the GOP's dissatisfaction with its candidate -- local party leaders recruited former state Sen. Nancy Cassis to wage a write-in campaign for the primary -- show he can pull moderate voters from the Tea Party libertarian in the general election. "The ideas he is floating are not accepted by anyone," Taj said, "Republicans or Democrats. ... I don't think there's a place of extreme views in this district."
He said he's built bipartisan appeal in his time on the township board, serving as an outnumbered Democrat in a Republican-leaning township. The state's Democratic leaders have started providing support, Taj said, now that they see the race as winnable, and help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may be on the way. "I am on the radar, that's for sure," Taj said.
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