91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Political newcomers vie for 11th Congressional seat prize

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kerry Bentivolio was fired from a teaching job. In fact, Mr. Bentivolio, although he received written reprimands for yelling at students, left of his own accord. We greatly regret the error.


The 11th Congressional District race is heating up.

The district was until recently represented by Thaddeus McCotter, before he resigned in a scandal over fake nominating petition signatures.

Now, the race features a Democrat with a little political experience, and a Republican with none.

The Democrat, Syed Taj, says his internal polls show he is ahead, even though the district is solidly Republican.

But the campaign for the Republican candidate, Kerry Bentivolio, says there's no way a Democrat can win that district.

Bentivolio has not held elected office before. He says that's a plus.

"That's what Jefferson envisioned, was the citizen-statesman,"Bentivolio told a Michigan Radio reporter at an anti-Obama-care event in Novi last week.  "I'm a constitutional conservative, Ronald Reagan type."

The Detroit Free Press has published unflattering reports about Bentivolio's past.

Currently the owner of a Santa Claus-for-hire business, complete with live reindeer, which he keeps on his farm, Bentivolio received written reprimands at a teaching job for yelling at students.  He left the job shortly afterwards.

Years earlier, he had a business go bankrupt.

 Syed Taj says he originally envisioned running a 100% positive campaign.   But he resigned himself to the necessity of pointing out his opponent's negatives.

"We want to let the voters know, they have a choice - do you want really this guy?" he asks rhetorically while introducing himself to voters outside a library in Birmingham last week. 

Taj says he thinks he can convince some Republicans to vote for him.  He became the first Democratic Canton Township Trustee in 2008.

"And they all told me, you can never win here - no Democrat ever won before - and I said, okay, I'll do it."

Bentivolio's campaign counters that Taj is too liberal to send to Washington to represent the 11th District, in part because he accepted a campaign contribution from a leftist organization.

Both men are expected to appear at a forum in Livonia Monday night.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.