POLITICS

Jocelyn Benson, Democrat, May Run Against Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, For House Of Representatives Seat

11/01/2013 05:21 pm ET | Updated Nov 02, 2013
AP

A "high-profile" Michigan Democrat is contemplating a run in the 11th Congressional District, home to one of the House's most colorful tea party members.

Though she hasn't yet confirmed, Jocelyn Benson, the 35-year-old interim dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit and director of the Michigan Center for Election Law, is said to be contemplating a run in the 11th district. Subscription service Inside Michigan Politics reported Friday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) began calling candidates to let them know Benson is the race.

"I can confirm that many people in the district are encouraging me to run," Benson told Inside Michigan Politics, according to MLive.

Benson, who lost the race for Michigan Secretary of State in 2010 to Republican Ruth Johnson, could be a formidable candidate to Bentivolio, who is also facing a primary challenge from businessman David Trott. Benson was associate director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights and a professor at Wayne Law before being named interim dean in 2012; an expert in election law, she has supervised three nonpartisan election protection efforts in Michigan. She's also a Harvard Law grad who began her career at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Freshman congressman and tea party member Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford) was making national headlines before he even entered the House.

After former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter unexpectedly resigned his seat in the 11th following a scandal with his ballot petitions, Democrat David Curson had won a special election in November to finish out McCotter's term. Six months after McCotter resigned, Bentivolio was sworn in, having beaten a Democrat physician named Syed Taj for the seat.

Even before Bentivolio was elected, the stories began circulating -- that Bentivolio, a Santa Claus impersonator who raises his own reindeer, had once testified in a court deposition that he didn't always know whether he was St. Nick or himself. A brother of Bentivolio's told the media that Kerry was mentally unbalanced; records obtained of his teaching career found several instances of Bentivolio reportedly intimidating students.

In August, Bentivolio told supporters that impeaching President Obama would be a "dream come true," BuzzFeed reported.

"I feel your pain, I know, I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him," Bentivolio reportedly said of President Obama. "I couldn't stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office. That's my job, as a congressman, I respect the office."

Another concern for Bentivolio could be financing his next campaign while fighting off opponents with deeper pockets. His primary challenge was cited by the Associated Press as one high-profile example of the split between Tea Party conservatives and businessmen in the Republican Party leading to new electoral challenges. Bentivolio has less than $40,000 cash on hand so far for the next election, according to an Oct. 16 Detroit Free Press article, which said his primary opponent David Trott had more than $450,000 on hand.

There's also another Democrat who's already signed up for the 11th Congressional District race, regardless of whether Benson decides to run. Bobby McKenzie, a 39-year-old Michigan native who most recently worked as a senior adviser to the U.S. State Department, announced his candidacy in October.

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