12/04/2013 11:30 am ET

Michigan 11th District Seat Held By Tea Party Pol Kerry Bentivolio Won't Be Challenged By Democrat


The U.S. Congressional seat in Michigan's 11th District, now occupied by colorful tea party pol Kerry Bentivolio (R), won't face a challenge from Democrat Jocelyn Benson.

Benson, the 35-year-old interim dean of the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, was rumored to be contemplating a run against Bentivolio -- enough of a contemplation that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reportedly began calling other candidates to let them know Benson was in the race.

Despite the encouragement, Benson announced Tuesday that she would not seek the Democratic nomination for the 11th District in an email sent to her staff at the law school obtained by The Huffington Post.

"Over the past month there has been a great deal of media speculation about local and national efforts to recruit me for a possible bid for Congress next year," Benson wrote. "While I am touched by the efforts of people in the 11th Congressional District to encourage me to represent them in Washington, my priority is leading the Law School as Interim Dean. For that reason, I want you to know that I will not be a candidate for Congress in 2014."

Bentivolio is currently facing a high-profile Republican challenger -- businessman David Trott, who raised $650,000 in a single month and has already out-financed Bentivolio by a stunning margin. The primary challenge was cited by the Associated Press as one high-profile example of the growing rift between tea party conservatives and businessmen in the Republican Party in states like Michigan. Democrat Bobby McKenzie, a 39-year-old Michigan native who most recently worked as a senior adviser to the U.S. State Department, also announced his candidacy in October.

Bentivolio was elected after former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) unexpectedly resigned his seat in scandal.

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



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