From the Ogemaw County Hearld.
WEST BRANCH — Following the announcement last Friday that Rep. Bart Stupak would be retiring after 18 years in Congress, State Representative Joel Sheltrown (D-West Branch) announced Monday that he will be seeking election to the 1st Congressional District seat.
Sheltrown told the Herald Monday that when Stupak announced his retirement, he gave a couple of names of people who he felt would be qualified to run for the seat. Sheltrown’s name was on that list.
“Immediately after, I received a call asking me to run,” Sheltrown said.
Sheltrown, who was already involved in a state Senate campaign, said he had to talk to his wife and his strategists before he could make a decision.
“It’s an absolutely huge commitment,” Sheltrown said, adding that he understands that this is the largest district east of the Mississippi. “Once I put all the pieces together and it appeared that the door was open — if a door is open, I’ve never been one to walk up to it and close it.”
Interesting decision, since I think Sheltrown would have won the state senate district he's running for (36th). Of the democrats in Northern Lower Michigan running, he's by far the strongest, and it really isn't all that close. (Barcia would have been a carpetbagger). He's also one of the strongest democrats on 2nd Amendment issues, and is also pro-life.
Sheltrown has one major weakness. Geography. He's a troll, and 1/2 of the district population is the UP which tends to stick together. I think Sheltrown could be beaten by a strong yooper Republican, along with getting big margins from Emmet, Otsego, and Antrim Counties which are the Republican base in the district. In addition, Sheltrown doesn't have Roscommon County or Missaukee County in the district. Missaukee County is the second most republican county in the state, but they voted for Sheltrown. Roscommon County is a swing county, but supported Sheltrown along with his Iosco and Ogemaw base. Sheltrown has won republican votes in the past, much like Stupak has in Congress.
I'd still consider Sheltrown a top tier candidate, and one who the Republicans need to take as seriously as they would take someone like Mike Lahti or Gary McDowell. Sheltrown chairs Natural Resources in the house. Most of the gun bills go through him. Sheltrown is also pro-life. He's not going to get beat easily on the "cultural war" issues that work against national democrats in the 1st. (John Kerry). Sheltrown will get a lot of 2nd Amendment support and endorsements unless the Republicans run someone on his level on that issue, and I really don't know if that's possible, with Michelle McManus being in the 4th District (and running for Sec of State). Tom Casperson is the only other one I can think of that can possibly match Sheltrown there, and Sheltrown's work is more recent.
The question is who else runs? I've heard several names bantered about from the UP. Gary McDowell won the most Republican portion of the UP. Mike Lahti and Mike Prusi are also rumored to possibly run. I think Prusi would be the least hardest yooper to defeat because of abortion. McDowell and Lahti would be much more difficult. If Prusi runs, does he take the abortion vote from Saltonstall, a favorite of out of state so called "progressives?" That would be bad news for republicans. Prusi I think could win this district, but he's not the same threat as Lahti or McDowell. The best possible Republican matchup is Saltonstall emerging in a split primary against any strong Republican - either a yooper, or Elsenheimer who already beat Saltonstall once already in a rout.
Benishek v Sheltrown - The political newbie in the UP vs a state rep troll from the edge of the district. Benishek would have to take advantage of his geography, his outsider image, and make sure he protects his right cultural flank by losing as few 2nd amendment votes as possible that most republicans would get if it wasn't for Sheltrown. Benishek would have to go in and get big margins though in the troll base areas, along with running better than Bush in the UP, since he'll get dinged in a few swing counties like Ogemaw, Iosco, and probably Alcona and Alpena.
Elsenheimer (if he runs) v Sheltrown - This would be interesting. Elsenheimer's district is the major Republican base in the district (outside of McDowell's district where the NRA got revenge on one Republican who voted against them - long story). Elsenheimer is from Antrim County, which is a bit of a disadvantage for this district, but he doesn't have that Torch Lake address that would make it tougher. He also ran a geographic primary in 2004, where he took advantage of his location to win by "not" being the coastal or transplant candidate. He'll run very well in the base areas in Northern Michigan. Can he sell in the UP? That's the question there for both candidates.
The 1st district is currently rated as a tossup. I think that's accurate and will be until the primary results are in this August. Nothing comes easy Up North for either party, and that once again holds true here.