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An interesting primary shapes up in Michigan's weirdest (-looking) Congressional district

One of the more interesting primary races coming up this week is in Metro Detroit’s 14th Congressional district.

The race in that newly-redrawn district pits two incumbent Congressmen, Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke, against each other.

The 14th district used to cover most of Detroit’s west side and a few surrounding suburbs.

Now, it zig-zags across a big chunk of southeast Michigan—75 miles long, but only a half-mile wide in some parts.

Current Oakland County Congressman Peters is one of those two incumbents. He says it’s an “exciting” new district that includes much of the city of Detroit, but also lots of suburbs extending well into Oakland County.

“You’ll have an elected official that literally has one foot in the city of Detroit, and one foot in the suburbs,” Peters said. "It’s the first district in history that has the county seat of Oakland, and the county seat of Wayne in the same Congressional district.”

And Peters could make history—if he wins, he’ll be the first ever non-resident to represent Detroit in Congress.

Peters spent the weekend leading up to Tuesday’s primary visiting just about every community in this diverse district, as part of his “We Are One Greater Detroit” tour. He’s touting his ties to President Obama, and his work on financial reform legislation and bolstering the US auto industry during his two terms in Congress.

But he faces a strong challenge from another current Congressman, Hansen Clarke, who has a sizeable base of support in Detroit and some suburbs.

Clarke still portrays himself as a Washington outsider fighting for the underdog. He touts his hard work on Detroit’s behalf during his first term in Congress—including crusades against student loan debt, home foreclosure, and for the Detroit Jobs Trust Fund Act.

“The reason why people are going to hire me for another term is because of my work,” Clarke said.  “And also I want to demonstrate, by winning the election, is that you don’t have to have money, you don’t have to have political contacts to serve people.”

What you need to be is committed to helping everyone, and be willing to fight to change the system in Washington to do so.”

But Peters has raised about three times as much money as Clarke, and earned some important endorsements--including most from organized labor, and even some city of Detroit officials.

The race also includes three other candidates--Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, former Detroit State Representative Mary Waters, and former magistrate judge Bob Costello, but all have been polling in single digits. Most polls show Peters leading the race.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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