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Peters defeats Clarke in feisty member-versus-member Michigan Democratic primary

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., defeated fellow Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., in a heated incumbent-versus-incumbent primary Tuesday.

Redistricting pitted Clarke, one of the only nine House Democratic freshmen elected in 2010, against Peters, a two-term lawmaker and former lottery commissioner. Population shifts after the 2010 Census cost Michigan one House seat and prompted redrawn district boundaries. 

Peters currently represents swaths of the Detroit suburbs, while Clarke hails from the city. The new district will represent voters from inner Detroit all the way to Oakland County.

Clarke joins four other incumbents – Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Don Manzullo,R-Ill., Jason Altmire,D-Pa., and Steve Rothman, D-NJ, – who became casualties of member-on-member races. Clarke's loss also gives him the distinction of becoming the first House freshman of the class of 2010 to lose re-nomination this election cycle. 

Clarke toppled seven-term incumbent Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., in the 2010 Democratic primary. Family legal issues dragged down her campaign. Kilpatrick’s son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, wound up in prison for lying under oath. 

In this contest, three other candidates, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, former district court magistrate Bob Costello and former state Rep. Mary Waters, siphoned votes away from the two incumbents. 

The campaign became especially testy when Clarke accused his opponents of “racist rhetoric and race-baiting.” Peters and Costello are white. Lawrence and Waters are black.

Clarke has stated that he was born to an African-American mother and a Bangladeshi father. But a volunteer for Lawrence’s campaign in June unearthed Clarke’s mother’s death certificate that said she was white. Clarke maintained that his mother was black.

Clarke’s campaign then announced June 29 that the candidate would no longer participate in any debates. 

Peters ultimately had an edge with fundraising. He raised over $1.7 million through July 13, more than twice as much as Clarke’s $636,000.

Peters is expected to win the general election in the heavily Democratic district.

If re-elected, Peters would join Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., as the only white lawmakers to represent African-American dominated districts.

This also means that if Peters is successful, Detroit will not be represented by two black members of Congress for the first 1965.