Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead

Lena Epstein, who co-chaired President Trump's campaign in Michigan, has decided to forgo a bid for Senate and instead run for Congress in one of 2018's key House races.

After months of campaigning across the state for the GOP Senate nomination, Epstein announced she would run in Michigan's 11th district instead, where Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) recently announced he would retire after this term.

"We have been inundated with requests from Republican leaders, grass-roots activists and the business community of southeast Michigan and across the state asking me to step forward and lead Michigan's 11th Congressional district," Epstein said in a video to supporters.

"Having had the opportunity to oversee my family business for the last 15 years — we're based in southeast Michigan — our heart is here, and we will keep the seat safe in Republican hands."

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Epstein had leaned heavily on her support of Trump throughout her Senate campaign. She regularly evoked Trump's message to "drain the swamp" on the stump, cited her work on the Trump campaign as proof she's committed to his agenda and called for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE to resign after Trump flayed him publicly for his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

That might not sit well in a district where Trump performed far worse than the Republican incumbent — Trott outran Trump by 9 points in November.

Trump's lackluster showing in the conservative-leaning district has boosted Democratic hopes of taking the seat now that Trott will no longer run.

Epstein's decision to skip a Senate bid leaves thin the field looking to fight an uphill battle to replace Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSupreme Court weighs Congress's power to dismiss lawsuits We must fund community health centers now Overnight Energy: Perry takes heat for sexual assault comments | Clovis withdraws nomination for USDA post | Battle lines drawn on Arctic refuge drilling | Energy regulator back to full strength MORE (D-Mich.). Stabenow is a potent electoral force in the state, winning reelection by 21 points in 2012, but Trump's narrow victory there in 2016 has boosted some Republican hopes.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Iraq War veteran John James are the only two remaining candidates in the GOP Senate primary field right now.

But two possible game-changers loom on the horizon. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the longtime congressman and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is reportedly weighing a bid. And Detroit-rocker Kid Rock is also weighing a high-profile bid.

The bid for the 11th district will likely get more crowded as the weeks go on — former state Rep. Andrew Raczkowski announced his bid on Monday as well, and the Detroit Free Press reports a handful of other state lawmakers are eyeing the race as well.