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Michigan begins congressional delegation shakeup

Two Republican congressmen faced strong challenges Tuesday in Michigan's primary election while voters also chose nominees in four open seats, the biggest shake-up in the state's U.S. House delegation since 1992.

The ballot had scores of legislative races but no showdowns in races for governor and U.S. Senate. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will face Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in November, while the GOP's Terri Lynn Land will square off against U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for a Senate seat in the fall.

Closely watched House races included business-backed challenges to conservative congressmen on opposite sides of Michigan. Rep. Justin Amash in the Grand Rapids area faced a threat from investment adviser Brian Ellis. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio went up against lawyer Dave Trott in suburban Detroit. Both challengers gave or loaned their campaigns at least $3.4 million.

"I live in his district and never see him," said Ralph Martin, 76, of Livonia, who walked quickly through morning rain to vote for Trott over Bentivolio. "I couldn't even form an opinion of him. He hasn't done much in Washington."

Bentivolio, a former teacher and reindeer farmer, was elected in 2012 after a Republican incumbent was knocked off the ballot due to fraudulent petition signatures.

"It was a fluke," Martin said.

But Steve Hall, 59, of Livonia said he voted for Bentivolio partly because he's "down to earth, a regular kind of guy."

Voters also began the process of filling four seats that incumbents will leave at year's end.

Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who has been in Congress for a record 58 years, will retire along with Republicans Reps. Dave Camp of Midland and Mike Rogers of Howell. A fourth House seat is opening up because Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Carl Levin.

Primary winners from the departing congressmen's party will have the edge come November.

It is the most open seats since 1992, when redistricting, retirements and a primary upset ushered out seven of 18 House members.

Republican Reps. Fred Upton and Tim Walberg in southern Michigan also have primary challengers. So do GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in northern Michigan and longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Detroit. With a win in his Democratic-heavy district, Conyers will be well on his way to succeeding Dingell as the current longest-serving member of the House.

And Dingell's wife, Debbie, is expected to extend the Dingell dynasty beyond its 81-year run since she faces nominal opposition in his Democratic seat between Ann Arbor and the "Downriver" working-class Detroit suburbs. Before John Dingell held the seat, his father John Dingell Sr. represented the district for 22 1/2 years.

The only statewide ballot measure is a proposal written by the Legislature asking voters to endorse a funding mechanism designed to ensure local governments and schools are fully reimbursed as taxes are gradually slashed on businesses' personal property such as machines. The plan -- which would not raise taxes -- received broad bipartisan support from lawmakers, Snyder, the business community and groups representing counties, cities and townships.

If Proposal 1 is approved, local governments would see the lost tax revenue fully replaced by a portion of Michigan's 6 percent use tax on out-of-state purchases, lodging assessments and telecommunications. Manufacturers benefiting from the tax cut also would pay a new special assessment on industrial equipment estimated to be about 20 percent of their current personal property tax bill.

If the measure is defeated, the tax cuts being phased in over a decade will be halted, forcing legislators to return to the drawing board.