Pete Hoekstra, of Holland, has an advantage in money and name recognition over Clark Durant, of Grosse Pointe, as they duke it out for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in a race that also includes former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman, of Grand Rapids. Gary Glenn's name appears on the ballot, but he dropped out several weeks ago.
Hoekstra, a former longtime congressman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, has strong support from the Republican establishment and a better statewide campaign operation. But Durant has been getting help from campaign ads run by an independent group, Prosperity for Michigan. The Detroit charter school foundation executive hopes to stun the front-runner with a come-from-behind victory fueled in part by tea party supporters.
Peter Durand, a Grosse Pointe Park lawyer who showed up early today to cast his vote, said he backed Durant.
"He'll have his own ideas about conserving our tax dollars," Durand said. "This is a seminal election. If we don't roll stuff back, we'll be in the same situation as Greece. We can't keep spending money this way — I should say printing money."
Democratic Congressmen Hansen Clarke, of Detroit, and Gary Peters, of Oakland County's Bloomfield Township, are battling in the 14th District running from Detroit into Oakland County, along with several other candidates. If Peters wins, he'll fill a traditionally black seat in Congress. Civil rights icon Rep. John Conyers, of Detroit, also faces a primary challenges from several candidates in the 13th District. Victors in those two primaries are expected to easily win in November.
Late this afternoon, a steady stream of voters made their way in and out of the Congregation Beth Ahm Synagogue in West Bloomfield Township. Michelle Bristow said she voted straight Republican.
"It's the party that kind of represents what I feel most of the time — not all of the time," said Bristow, 49. "I really hope that whatever happens (in November) we get a change. Our economy is so bad."
There were some early hiccups in Detroit. Poll workers were on time at a high school but the building wasn't open, causing a delay of more than an hour. Voters also complained about being searched by school security.
"I told them you cannot frisk voters," Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said.
In the 11th District that includes Oakland County and western Wayne County, former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, a write-in candidate, has handed out thousands of dusty red silicone bracelets embossed with her name and "11th District" to help voters remember how to write in her name, although she acknowledges it's an uphill battle.
Former teacher Kerry Bentivolio, who raises reindeer near Milford, was the only candidate on the Republican ballot for the 11th District congressional race after U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to submit enough valid signatures and then dropped out of the race. That lasted only until Cassis and Drexel Morton, of Wayne County's Canton Township, launched write-in campaigns, with Cassis getting the backing of most of the district's elected officials
Bentivolio's campaign has asked the secretary of state's office to ban the bracelets, saying they violate a state law banning the display of any material that makes reference to an election within 100 feet of a polling place. But a spokesman for GOP Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says the bracelets, into which the information has been cut rather than printed, are legal.
Woodhams added voters don't have to write in Cassis' exact name for the vote to count, although they do need to remember to darken the oval next to the write-in candidate's name.
Cassis campaign spokesman David Mroz said the 68-year-old realizes only three people ever have won a congressional seat as a write-in candidate, but she's working hard to win today's GOP primary and the chance to take on the winner of the Democratic primary in November.
"I really feel like we've done the best job possible to pull off something that's near impossible," Mroz said.
In the 11th District Democratic race, physician and Canton Township Trustee Syed Taj faces Bill Roberts, of Wayne County's Redford Township, who is a Lyndon LaRouche supporter who thinks President Barack Obama should be impeached, largely for foreign policy reasons.
Other major congressional contests include southwest Michigan's 6th District, where Jack Hoogendyk, of Kalamazoo County's Texas Township, is working to defeat veteran GOP Rep. Fred Upton, of St. Joseph, after failing to do so two years ago; and west Michigan's 3rd District, where Democrats Trevor Thomas, of Grand Rapids, and Steve Pestka, of Ada, are battling for the chance to take on GOP incumbent Justin Amash in November.
Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties voted on a special millage to support the Detroit Institute of Arts. The institute says it will have to sharply curtail services if the 10-year millage doesn't pass.
Kafi Kumasi, 36, of Grosse Pointe Park supported the tax.
"Art is a cultural artifact that we leave to our children," she said. "It beings communities together."