Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:28 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:32 PM
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters is poised to return to Washington for a third term after defeating fellow Rep. Hansen Clarke in one of Michigan's most competitive primaries.
Population loss cost the state a seat in the U.S. House, and Republican-led redistricting prompted a game of musical chairs that left both incumbents sitting at the same table in the new-look 14th District.
Peters, a Bloomfield Hills resident who generated early momentum with a series of substantive endorsements in Detroit, has captured 47 percent of the vote with 309 of 349 precincts reporting, prompting the Associated Press to call the race.
Clarke, a Detroiter who defeated sitting Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick in 2010, has pulled in 35 percent, followed by Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence (13 percent), former state Rep. Mary Waters (3 percent) and retired Magistrate Bob Costello (1 percent).
Peters will go on to face Republican challenger John Hauler in the general election, but remapping designed to keep other GOP seats safe all but ensures a Democratic victory in November.
Cited as one of the ugliest examples of gerrymandering in the nation, the district includes part of Detroit, the Pointes, Hamtramck, Royal Oak Township, Oak Park, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake Village, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Pontiac.
It is one of two majority-minority districts in Michigan, as required by Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Clarke's loss means the state will lose one of its two black representatives.
"The question is who African American voters want to represent them, not what race the winning candidate is," said Jocelyn Benson, a law professor at Wayne State University and former Democratic nominee for Secretary of State.
Benson, who was highly critical of last year's redistricting process, found a silver lining in the fact that Peters and other candidates were forced to woo both suburban and city voters.
"I remain highly critical of the gerrymandering that went into these districts," she said, "But the interesting thing is we've seen the 14th District candidates talking about the region and building bridges across 8 Mile. There could be, with the right leadership, a new approach to regionalism."