The decision by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin to leave his job rather than seek re-election in 2014 is opening a rare door for a new generation of politicians to ascend to the highest levels of the nation's government.
And the line is expected to be long on both sides of the political aisle.
"This has just gone from being a sure thing to a competitive race," said Lansing political consultant Ken Brock. "I would expect large fields on both sides."
State Republicans, who have been shut out of the U.S. Senate since Spencer Abraham was defeated by Democrat Debbie Stabenow in 2000, hailed Levin's announcement as a rare opportunity to run for an open seat.
-- Twitterverse tries to predict who will fill Levin's seat
But Democrats said Michigan remains a blue state in federal elections, with the Dems easily winning the last six presidential and U.S. Senate races.
GOP insiders pointed to members of the state's congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Candice Miller of Harrison Township; Mike Rogers of Brighton; Dave Camp of Midland; Fred Upton of St. Joseph, and Justin Amash of Cascade Township, as potential candidates.
Other names mentioned by Republicans include Lt. Gov. Brian Calley; Attorney General Bill Schuette; former Gov. John Engler; metro Detroit charter school founder Clark Durant, who sought the U.S. Senate nomination in 2010, and west Michigan billionaire Dick DeVos, who was the GOP candidate for governor in 2006. State Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has expressed interest, as well.
"Michigan Republicans have a lot of strong potential candidates, and we are more than ready to have a real conversation with Michigan families why Republican leadership is necessary to fix Washington," Michigan Republican Chairman Bobby Schostak said in a statement Thursday.
Republican consultant Stu Sandler described the Levin retirement as "a once-in-a-30-year opportunity." He noted 2014 will be a non-presidential year and said he expects the GOP will have "a very strong ticket" headed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
The first name on most Democrats' minds was U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township. He ran a close statewide race for attorney general in 2002. He won his congressional seat three times, beating longtime Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg in 2008. And he has retained his seat in two tough re-election battles. He also already has $500,000 in his campaign war chest.
Other Democratic names that have been mentioned as possible candidates are former Govs. Jennifer Granholm and James Blanchard; former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek, and, as a long shot, Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
Levin's brother Sander Levin, a congressman from Royal Oak, has been mentioned in rumor mills, but at 81, he's three years older than his brother.
"This is a great opportunity for a lot of other politicians," said Lansing political consultant Robert Kolt. "This comes along only once in a lifetime for most politicians."
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