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Trott announces retirement from U.S. House of Representatives

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It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Representative David Trott announced Monday morning that he will not seek reelection in 2018. The announcement comes after speculation by various pundits and the retirement of two other Republican congressmen last week.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that President Donald Trump's team is ready to take sides in some Republican primaries in races where members of Congress are deemed insufficiently behind the president.

And some Republicans, like Trott, are responding by just walking away.

Trott did not mention Trump in his statement, instead citing the Founding Fathers:

Our country’s Founding Fathers envisioned a government where citizens leave private life, serve for a brief time, and then return home to their communities. It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the people of Southeast Michigan in Congress. Representing the Eleventh District has been an honor, but I have decided not to seek reelection in 2018. This was not an easy decision, but after careful consideration, I have decided that the best course for me is to spend more time with my family and return to the private sector.

Currently in his second term, Trott represents the 11th District, which has a recent history of political drama.

Then-Congressman Thad McCotter, a Republican, quit in 2012 following a scandal where it seems staffers faked more than a thousand nominating petition signatures… in the midst of the primary. And that left oddball-candidate Kerry Bentivolio as the only Republican on the ballot in a GOP-leaning district. Bentivolio won.

Then, Trott, a millionaire real estate attorney and big Republican donor, took on Bentivolio in 2014 and beat him. Trott won reelection in 2016.

But, it appears Trott is not finding Congress as much fun as he thought it would be.

Sure, he landed a spot on the “A-list” House Finance Committee - a plumb position for fundraising and building influence. But Congress still is run largely on seniority and slowly working your way up the ladder.

In other words, power and glory in Congress typically don’t come quickly.

And Trott is clearly one of the congressional Republicans frustrated by Trump’s demeanor.

He famously tweeted a few weeks ago that Trump should spend more time on the golf course and less time making incendiary comments. A public representation of his private frustration.

Trott’s retirement is a loss to party leaders. He’s a prized political commodity (he has his own money and can fund his own campaigns).

And, to the concern of GOP leaders, Republican Congressman Fred Upton of southwest Michigan may also be uncertain about 2018.

Upton was mentioned in the same New York Times piece, but as a respected congressional veteran, he’s in a different place. He’s still figuring out his next act after stepping down as the powerful chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Upton’s plans could include leaving his House seat to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2018.

Republicans would have reason to be concerned if both Trott and Upton’s districts became open seats. The GOP would have to defend them without the advantages of an incumbent in office.

Both these districts lean Republican but they have been trending toward Democrats.

Upton will face pressure to stick it out for the sake of continuing control of the House.

Now that Trott has announced his decision, party leaders can get about recruiting, and hope they don’t wind up with an intra-party battle pitting Trump loyalists against Trump critics, which could endanger what should be safe Republican seats.

Because in the era of Trump, one thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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