MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — Another Republican congressman decided Friday not to run for the U.S. Senate seat opening up with the retirement of Democratic Sen. Carl Levin in 2014, which could clear the way for former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to more easily raise money for her campaign.
U.S. Rep. Dave Camp of Midland, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, announced in a statement that he will focus on his House duties despite being "deeply humbled" by recent encouragement to run. He will continue working on the herculean task of simplifying a tax code that has undergone about 5,000 changes since 2001.
When Levin announced his retirement in March, the 60-year-old Camp ruled out a run only to say last month he was reconsidering.
"Congressman Camp would have made a very formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate and we appreciate his critical efforts to pass tax reform," Land said in a statement. "I will be working very hard over the next few days to unite our party behind a message that is both conservative and electable."
Land, Michigan's secretary of state from 2003 through 2010, is the only declared Republican candidate, though other lesser-known candidates could still run. Democrats have coalesced behind U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township.
While just one Michigan Republican has won a Senate seat in 40 years, the last one to win, Spencer Abraham in 1994, did so after a Democrat retired and served only one term.
When Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Howell spurned overtures to run for Levin's seat, Camp's name emerged within the GOP because he has more than $3 million in his campaign account and is a 12th-term congressman knowledgeable about the issues. Some within the party question Land's fundraising ability and her short-lived exploration of a gubernatorial bid in 2009, while she counters that she won two statewide races in years that Democrat Jennifer Granholm won the governorship.
Land likely has the ability to self-finance some of her campaign because her husband owns western Michigan apartment complexes and Florida condominiums worth tens of millions of dollars.
GOP political consultant Mike Murray said he is glad Camp made his decision now instead of waiting until January — the deadline he had imposed on himself.
"Had he waited that long, it would have been very difficult for other Republican candidates to raise any money until then, and we'd be basically conceding the seat to Peters," Murray said.
He said there is a definite "anyone one but Land" faction in the party but thinks concerns about her poor debate performance in 2009 are overblown and people are underestimating her appeal.
"Rank-and-file activists and regular voters know and like Land. The party establishment — and I don't mean that as a pejorative — liked Camp," Murray said.
Other Republicans exploring a run are Ypsilanti cardiologist Rob Steele, who ran against Democratic Rep. John Dingell in 2010; Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra; and Oakland County District Judge Kimberly Small. A wild card is second-term libertarian-leaning U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township, who was chief sponsor of a recent challenge to the National Security Agency's secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records.
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