- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2010

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — New potential candidates from northern Michigan are considering a run for Congress now that U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee, has decided to retire at the end of this year.

Michigan House Republican Leader Kevin Elsenheimer of Kewadin said in a statement Friday he is taking a “serious look” at running for Stupak’s seat and will announce his decision in the coming days. Elsenheimer can’t run for the state House again because of term limits.

At least three other Republicans already are in the race, including Dan Benishek, a doctor from Crystal Falls. The other GOP candidates include Linda Goldthorpe of Curtis and Tom Stillings of Antrim County’s Torch Lake Township.

Stupak already had a Democratic challenger. Connie Saltonstall, an ex-teacher and ex-Charlevoix County commissioner, was endorsed last month by the National Organization for Women in her bid to win the 1st District seat.

Better-known Democrats are likely to get in the race now that Stupak is out. The Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula have several current and former state lawmakers likely to at least give some consideration to running for Congress.

State Rep. Michael Lahti, D-Hancock, said he hasn’t ruled out a bid for Congress but he’s running “full bore” for the state Senate for now. Stupak mentioned Lahti by name Friday.

“People like Mike Lahti would do a great job, there’s all kinds of people who could do it,” Stupak said.

Michael Prusi of Ispheming, the top-ranked Democrat in the Michigan Senate, can’t run for his state-level seat again because of term limits. Prusi issued a statement Friday thanking Stupak for his years of service. The statement didn’t address whether Prusi had designs on running for the seat.

Former state Rep. Patrick Gagliardi, who served in the state Legislature for much of the 1980s and ‘90s, said Friday wasn’t the proper day to talk about the future of Stupak’s seat.

“That’s another day,” said Gagliardi, of Drummond Island. “Today’s his day.”

Stupak, an anti-abortion Democrat targeted for defeat by tea party activists for his role in securing House approval of the health care overhaul, said he’s retiring now that his main legislative goal has been accomplished.

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