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Joe Knollenberg
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Dale Kildee
Succeeded by Gary Peters
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Robert W. Davis
Succeeded by Thaddeus McCotter
Personal details
Born Joseph Kastl Knollenberg
November 28, 1933(1933-11-28) (age 89)
Mattoon, Illinois
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sandie Knollenberg
Residence Bloomfield Township, Michigan
Alma mater Eastern Illinois University
Occupation insurance agent
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1955-1957

Joseph Kastl "Joe" Knollenberg (born November 28, 1933) is a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan. From 1993 to 2009, he was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Michigan's 9th congressional district and Michigan's 11th congressional district.

He was defeated by Gary Peters in the 2008 election by a margin of 52% to 43%.

Early life

Knollenberg was born in Mattoon, Illinois, the son of Helen (née Kastl) and William E. Knollenberg. All of his grandparents were German immigrants.[1] He graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1955. He has lived in the Detroit area since 1959, and has lived in Oakland County since 1967. After graduation, he served in the United States Army from 1955 to 1957. He then spent more than three decades as an insurance agent. Initially working for New York Life and Sears, he founded his own agency in the late 1980s. He served as chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party from 1978 to 1982.

Congressional career

In 1992, Knollenberg signed on as campaign manager for Congressman William Broomfield, who had represented most of Oakland County in Congress since 1957. However, at a meeting with Knollenberg and other advisers, Broomfield announced he would not run for a 19th term. He then asked Knollenberg to run in his place in the 11th District, which had been renumbered from the 18th District after the 1990 census. Despite being the only candidate in the three-way Republican primary not holding elected office, Knollenberg won the nomination by over 13 points. As the 11th was one of the most Republican districts in Michigan and the nation at the time, he was virtually assured of becoming only the third person to represent the district. He was reelected six times without serious difficulty, never dropping below 55 percent of the vote.

Knollenberg was re-elected to his seventh term in 2004 with 58% of the vote. In 2006, however, Knollenberg faced a tough campaign against Democrat Nancy Skinner, a liberal talk show host in the Detroit area, ultimately winning by six points. Two years later, in a more difficult election cycle for Republican candidates, Knollenberg lost re-election to Gary Peters.

Generally, Knollenberg's voting record was conservative. He supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and led the campaign against President George W. Bush's steel tariffs.[2][3][4] In 2002 he was awarded the Mkhitar Gosh Medal by the President of the Republic of Armenia.[5] On September 29, 2008, he voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.[6]

Committee assignments

  • Appropriations Committee
    • Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (Ranking Member)

2006 election

Knollenberg was challenged in the 2006 Republican primary by moderate Republican Patricia Godchaux. Democratic candidate Nancy Skinner, a popular former radio-talk show host in the Detroit area, was her party's nominee for the 9th district. Matthew R. Abel of the Green Party and Adam Goodman of the Libertarian Party were third-party candidates also in the race.

Prior to 2006, Knollenberg's election was widely considered to be relatively easy given the traditionally Republican leanings of Troy, the largest city in his district. However, recent demographic shifts in the district, and Oakland County as a whole, made what was once a bastion of suburban conservatism much more competitive. For example, George W. Bush barely won the district in 2000 and 2004. The 2000s round of redistricting made Knollenberg's district much friendlier to Democrats. While the district lost heavily Democratic Southfield, it picked up equally Democratic Pontiac and lost a Republican-leaning spur of Wayne County.

In the 2006 election, Knollenberg was nearly defeated, taking only 52 percent of the vote to Skinner's 46 percent. Abel received .9%, and Goodman received 1.3%.[7] This was the closest a Democrat had come to winning the district in 48 years; in 1958 Broomfield only won a second term by 5.5 points.

Knollenberg spent $2.7 million in his campaign.[8]

2008 election

In January 2006, Congressman Knollenberg announced his intent to seek re-election in 2008. The narrowness of his 2006 reelection bid, combined with his district's changing demographics led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target him for defeat.[9] The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted Congressional Districts where Republicans garnered less than 55% of the vote.[10]

The Democratic nominee was Gary Peters, the former state lottery commissioner. Skinner initially made plans for a rematch, but bowed out to clear the field for Peters.[11] On 12 March 2008, Dr. Jack Kevorkian announced that he would challenge Knollenberg as an independent candidate.[12] The Libertarian nominee was Adam Goodman and the Green nominee was Douglas Campbell. Kevorkian, Goodman and Campbell each raised and spent less money than the mandatory reporting threshold.

On November 4, 2008, Knollenberg was defeated, garnering 43 percent of the vote to Peters' 52 percent. Knollenberg's candidacy was likely hurt by a heavy Democratic tide in the Detroit area; Barack Obama carried Oakland County by a 15-point margin, six percentage points more than Peters' margin over Knollenberg. A potential factor in Knollenberg's defeat was a series of advertisements criticizing his vote against expanding S-CHIP.[13]


Knollenberg has two sons with his wife, Sandie. His son, Marty Knollenberg, was elected in November 2006 by a 58%-42% margin to the Michigan State House of Representatives from the 41st District.


  1. "Joseph Kastl Knollenberg". Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  2. Daly, Corbett B. (December 4, 2003). "Bush Relents, scraps steel tariffs". CBS Marketwatch. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  3. "Sen. Alexander and Rep. Knollenberg Honored by Automotive Suppliers". The Auto Channel. May 6, 2004. Retrieved 2012-12-11. "Thanks to their extraordinary leadership, the tariffs were repealed." 
  4. "Roll call vote condemning the tariffs". Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  5. "Rep. Knollenberg receives Order of Mkhitar Gosh Award". Armenian National Committee of America. August 23, 2002. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  7. "9th District Representative in Congress 2 Year Term (1) Position Files In OAKLAND County". Election Results, GENERAL ELECTION, November 7, 2006. Michigan Department of State, Bureau of Elections. November 27, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  8. "Knollenberg shifts role after nearly losing seat". Detroit Free Press. December 25, 2006. 
  9. Rehman, Marc (January 30, 2007). "Michigan GOP Rep. Knollenberg Draws Democrats’ Scrutiny for 2008". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  10. Price, Deb (January 31, 2007). "Dems slap bulls-eye on 2 GOP U.S. Reps". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  11. "Skinner won't challenge Knollenberg". Detroit Free Press. February 25, 2008. Archived June 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Dr. Jack Kevorkian Will Run for US House as Independent", Ballot Access News, 12 March 2008 (accessed 13 March 2008).
  13. Klein, Ezra (January 20, 2008). "The Lessons of '94". The American Prospect. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert W. Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Thaddeus McCotter
Preceded by
Dale Kildee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Gary Peters

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