With redistricting as an X factor, Republicans set their sights on Kildee in 2022

Rep. Dan Kildee at the Flint drive-in rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with former President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) has just had his best fundraising haul since he was first elected in 2012, raking in over $420,000 in the second quarter alone. 

In total, Kildee — who represents the 5th Congressional District spanning Arenac, Bay, Genesee, and Iosco counties, as well as parts of Saginaw and Tuscola counties — has raised over $500,000 with $1.2 million left in the bank ahead of next year’s election. 

So far, no Republican or Democratic candidates have announced a challenge to Kildee in 2022 — but the longest-serving member of the Michigan Democratic House delegation is on Republicans’ radar. 

Kildee was not on a February list of Democratic incumbents targeted next year by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which helps elect Republicans to Congress. Both U.S. Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) — who flipped two Southeast Michigan seats in 2018 and were unsuccessfully targeted by Republicans in 2020 — were among the 47 Democrats on the list.

But in May, Kildee was one of 10 Democrats the Republican House campaign arm added to its target list after preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data was released that’s used to redraw congressional boundaries for the next 10 years. All of the new Democrats are from states that will shed a congressional seat. 

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Michigan’s delegation is set to shrink from 14 to 13 seats due to stagnant population growth. The state’s new Independent Redistricting Commission this year is redrawing lines, and it’s not clear how that might impact the 5th District Kildee represents.

In a statement to the Advance, NRCC spokesman Mike Berg cited the redistricting process. 

“Dan Kildee’s district could be extremely competitive following redistricting,” Berg said. “Kildee is vulnerable because of his lockstep support for Democrats’ socialist agenda that has left Michigan communities less safe and caused the price of everyday goods to skyrocket.” 

Kildee also was part of an NRCC attack email this month demanding for he, Stevens and Slotkin to “condemn” fellow U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) for her calls to defund immigration enforcement agencies, citing Fox News’ reporting

Kildee campaign spokesperson Mitchell Rivard said the Democrat always campaigns hard.

“Every day in Congress, Dan Kildee works hard to earn the trust of his constituents,” said Rivard. “And every two years, he runs a robust campaign to ask every constituent for their vote. … Congressman Kildee will continue to show up everywhere in mid-Michigan and put in the hard work required to win.”

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Kildee has been a strong ally of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and has a leadership role in Congress, serving as chief deputy whip with the Democratic caucus. He also serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which he told the Advance last year provides him with a wider platform to advocate for issues impacting his constituents. 

Kildee was first elected at age 18 when he won a seat on the Flint School Board in Genesee County. He succeeded his uncle, former U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Flint), in the 5th District in 2012. Dan Kildee also briefly considered gubernatorial runs in both 2010 and 2018.

In the 2020 election, Kildee beat his Republican opponent, former state Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp.), by 13 points. Kildee also proved to be the strongest Michigan Democrat on the ticket, outperforming now-President Joe Biden by 8.5%, according to the Kildee campaign.  

In 2018, Kildee beat his GOP opponent, Travis Wines, by roughly 65,000 votes or by 23%. 

Although Biden outperformed former President Donald Trump by 4.2 percentage points in the 5th District in 2020, Trump made gains in each county Kildee represents over his 2016 performance. Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in all but one county of the 5th Congressional District in 2016. 

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The NRCC has already raised almost $80 million in 2021 to help Republican congressional candidates across the nation. There are currently 211 Republicans in the House and 220 Democrats. The group raised over $45 million in the second quarter alone, its largest haul in an off-election year period. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have contributed a large chunk to the NRCC — over $20 million. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that backs candidates on the other side of the aisle also had a record-setting second quarter, roping in almost $14.4 million in the three-month period. The DCCC now has over $44 million in cash on hand, more than $19 million than it had at this same time in the 2020 election cycle. The DCCC will use the funds to help defend the seats of Slotkin and Stevens. 

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said Kildee has had no problem in getting reelected each cycle, and that he will mount a strong 2022 campaign since “he knows how to connect with voters and talk about the real issues affecting their everyday lives.”

“He gets real results for his constituents, which is why they keep sending him back to D.C. to be their voice in Congress,” Barnes said. “He easily wins against his opponents every time, and that is because he puts in the work to win…  He isn’t timid and he doesn’t stand back when he knows what is right for his constituents.”

The Michigan GOP declined to comment on the story. 

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