While Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan appears to have a clear path to the Democratic nomination for retiring Sen. Carl Levin's seat, the GOP's nominee could still be Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Mike Rogers, or someone else entirely. That doesn't mean it's too early to look at the possible House candidates should Amash or Rogers decide to run for Senate.
Both seats lean Republican — Amash's more so — and Republican operatives tout a number of up-and-comers as potential replacements in Amash's 3rd District. With Amash and the party establishment frequently at loggerheads, some longtime operatives say an Amash Senate candidacy could be an opening to return the seat to its moderate Republican roots.
The first name mentioned by nearly every consultant is that of state Sen. Mark Jansen, called the "early favorite" by one GOP insider. The term-limited legislator is "much closer to that traditional Kent County, West Michigan compassionate-conservative mold," a Lansing consultant said.
That "mold," say some Republicans, dates back to one of the 3rd District seat's former occupants, Gerald Ford. That history may appeal to former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who got her start in politics working for Ford's 1976 presidential campaign. Land told Hotline On Call last month that a Senate bid is "an interest that I've had for some time," but GOP operatives — including some who doubted her intention to run for Senate — said she might be enticed by an opening in Ford's old seat.
Another possibility is state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, touted by several consultants as a strong candidate. But with a young family, some say he might not be willing to take on a congressional bid.
Also living in Amash's district is Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, who is known for pushing conservative causes. But Bolger would come with baggage after his role in helping a state representative switch parties and front a fake candidate to challenge him. Bolger narrowly won reelection in 2012.
In Rogers's 8th District — which is more of a battleground — Republicans offered fewer names and more caveats. "It's a tough district because it straddles Lansing and Detroit," one Republican operative said. "Lansing [airtime] is more affordable, but that's sort of the Democratic base." State Sen. Joe Hune, whose district runs near Lansing, "already has a strong base in the part of the district that's the toughest to penetrate," the operative said. But, he added, a candidate well known in Detroit wouldn't have to play catch-up buying expensive airtime to boost his or her name identification in that area.
One such candidate might be Rogers's brother, state Rep. Bill Rogers, whose district lies in the greater Detroit area. State Rep. Tom McMillin, also mentioned by consultants, represents a Detroit-area district as well.
Democratic operatives were less willing to speculate on candidates to replace Peters in the 14th District, but eyes will certainly turn to former Rep. Hansen Clarke, who lost an incumbent-on-incumbent primary to Peters in 2012.