Vern Ehlers (R-MI) became the latest federal legislator to announce retirement plans. He has held Michigan’s 3rd District seat since 1993. Described as one of the few remaining moderate Republicans, he was already facing a primary challenge from the right. However, he cited his wife’s health and his long time in office as reasons for stepping down.
Ehlers has not been a prominent player in House broadcasting politics.
The district includes Grand Rapids. It went solidly for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, but only narrowly went for John McCain in 2008.
According to reports, it seems likely there will be a Republican primary even without Ehlers in what is being called a safe Republican seat.
Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza noted that there are more open Republican seats than Democratic, but commented that open seats are not created equal, and that many of the Democratic retirees have been in areas where Republicans are very competitive.
Still, an incumbent candidate has many advantages, not the least of which – usually – is an established presence. Bringing in a new candidate, even in a district that party strategists in Washington may consider safe, always throws a wildcard into the race and may open an opportunity for the opposition party to steal, as the Republicans just did in Massachusetts.