Syed Taj

Former Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend in 2011.
Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

In Michigan's freaky 11th Congressional District, the Republican candidate both won AND lost on Election Day.

It all started here... when this guy's campaign imploded:

Then this reindeer rancher stepped into the race for the Republicans...

And two elections were needed to sort the mess out.

I really don’t envy anybody, with the possible exception of my dog, who is going to spend his day napping while I run around Detroit. But part of me would like to be David Curson for the next few weeks.  Dave just got himself unexpectedly elected to Congress.

Voters in the 11th Congressional District in Michigan will send a Democratic UAW activist to Congress for the lame duck session in November and December -- and a Republican Tea Party activist to Congress for the full term starting in January.

Here's how it happened.  (The "why" may never be satisfactorily answered.)

Thaddeus McCotter is the five-term Republican Congressman who until July represented the strongly Republican-leaning 11th Congressional District. 

First, the good news. A week from now, this election will be over. No more ads, no more lies, no more charges and counter-charges. Do you know one person who regrets that, or who isn’t heartily sick of the campaign at all levels, including the candidates?

If you live in the 11th Congressional District and you're confused right now - it is NOT your fault. Here's a quick recap.

The 11th Congressional District became even more Republican after the most recent redistricting. So five-term incumbent Thaddeus McCotter was considered a shoe-in. That is, until it all fell apart in July.

Turns out some of McCotter's staff didn't get the 2,000 signatures needed to get their boss on the ballot.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kerry Bentivolio was fired from a teaching job.   In fact, Mr. Bentivolio, although he received written reprimands for yelling at students, left of his own accord.  We greatly regret the error.

 

The 11th Congressional District race is heating up.

The district was until recently represented by Thaddeus McCotter, before he resigned in a scandal over fake nominating petition signatures.

Taj for Congress

The Democrat who won Tuesday's primary in Michigan's 11th Congressional District says he thinks he can win - even though the district is considered a Republican stronghold.

Syed Taj is a doctor who lives in Canton.

He will run against Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a teacher, former National Guard member, and farmer who raises reindeer.  Bentivolio won by a wide margin with strong Tea Party support.

 Michigan’s Eleventh Congressional District is, on paper, what used to be thought of as a pretty conventional place. It includes a bunch of white-collar suburbs in Wayne and Oakland Counties, places like Birmingham and Troy; Livonia and Plymouth.

Back in the day, much of this turf was represented for nearly forty years by Bill Broomfield, a moderate Republican who never made waves, rocked a boat or faced a difficult November election.

The Doctor Is In

Jul 17, 2012

Four years ago, Dr. Syed Taj, then chief of medicine at Dearborn’s Oakwood Hospital, decided to run for Canton Township trustee. His friends tried to talk him out of it. He had only lived there a year, and he was a Democrat. The affluent Wayne County area is pretty Republican. Taj is also a Muslim-American whose musical voice is rich with the accents of his native India.

Most figured he didn’t have a chance. But he won overwhelmingly. Though he was the only Democrat to win a seat on the board, he got more votes than anyone else.

“Most people trust their doctor,” Taj said, chuckling. Now, Taj is running for Congress from the Eleventh District, which tends to lean Republican. He is, once again, an underdog. But he is used to that -- and his chances improved when the incumbent, Thaddeus McCotter, mysteriously failed to qualify for the ballot and suddenly resigned.

Throughout the last decade, there was always speculation that a Democrat could win the 11th district, but the party tended to run lackluster and underfunded candidates. This time, it may be even harder. Redistricting has made the district slightly more Republican.