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Voters in Michigan's 10th District are picking a brand new representative

Oct 17, 2016

Michigan’s 10th Congressional District stretches from the tip of the Thumb to northern Macomb County. 

Voters will choose between two candidates with relatively thin resumes in the District.

Businessman Paul Mitchell is making his second run for Congress. He ran two years ago in a different district in a different part of the state.  

Republican candidate Paul Mitchell shakes hands with voters during a parade on Labor Day in Romeo.
Credit Steve Carmody

When asked about that, this was his initial response.

“Turn that off for a second,” Mitchell asked for the recording to stop, “I have one question for you.”

Mitchell asked why was it important that he ran to represent a different part of Michigan just two years ago. 

It happens on occasion that a long-time politician will find he or she has to run in a new district after boundary lines are changed. But how often do novice politicians move from one district to another?

“Very unusual,” says Bill Ballenger, the longtime political observer and editor of the Ballenger Report. “In recent Michigan political history, I cannot recall this happening.”

Mitchell failed to win the Republican nomination in the 4th District in 2014.  He spent more than $3 million of his own money on the campaign. 

After that, Paul Mitchell and his wife moved to Lapeer County, in the 10th District. Soon after, Congresswoman Candace Miller announced she was stepping down to run for a local office in Macomb County.

Democratic candidate Frank Accavitti Jr. met with supporters earlier this month.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Mitchell says he has family and roots in the 10th District dating back to the 1980s.

“I lived in St. Clair for the better of almost a decade,” says Mitchell. “My corporate office is in St. Clair. I was on a work force development board beginning in ’88…helping develop job training programs in Macomb and St. Clair county.”

Still, Mitchell’s Democratic opponent raises questions about how well Mitchell knows the district. But Frank Accavitti’s own political resume draws largely from outside the 10th Congressional District as well. 

Accavitti is a former mayor and city councilman in Eastpointe, a former state lawmaker and Macomb county commissioner. He blames Republican gerrymandering for tweaking the district’s borders after the 2010 census.

“Some of us feel it was redrawn specifically to exclude candidates like myself from being able to say they reside in the district,” says Accavitti.

Building name recognition is key in the 10th District race.

Republican Paul Mitchell is spending a lot of his own money again, which he made running a successful job training business.  

Mitchell spent more than $2.5 million to win the Republican primary. He easily outspent his closest rivals by nearly 10 to one.

That bothers political analyst Bill Ballenger.

“There’s no question. He bought the Republican primary nomination,” asserts Ballenger.

Though Paul Mitchell doesn’t see using his own money as an issue.

“For me to take some of that money and say I’m going to stand up for what is the right thing for people in this area … it’s a reasonable investment in my opinion,” says Mitchell.

He was a major donor to the campaign to defeat a 2015 statewide ballot question to raise money for roads.

Paul Mitchell definitely doesn’t shy away from spending money on the political causes he cares about. He was a major donor to the campaign to defeat a 2015 statewide ballot question to raise money for roads.     

Republican Paul Mitchell not only has a financial advantage over Democrat Frank Accavitti, the District also strongly leans Republican.  

Accavitti hopes polls showing Hillary Clinton expanding her lead over Donald Trump in Michigan is also good news for his campaign.

“The coattail effect that we have seen in politics in the past could carry me over the top considering where we believe we are from polling numbers,” says Accavitti.

But that same trend could work against Accavitti. Better poll numbers for Clinton could convince many Michigan Democrats to stay home on Election Day, and that could cost him votes.