Thursday, February 2, 2023

Potential candidates for Debbie Stabenow's Senate seat

January 9, 2023
<p>Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin speaks to guests at the Slotkin watch party on Election Day at the Graduate Hotel in East Lansing on Nov. 8, 2022. </p>

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin speaks to guests at the Slotkin watch party on Election Day at the Graduate Hotel in East Lansing on Nov. 8, 2022.

Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Following Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s announcement that she would not seek reelection to her seat in 2024, speculation over who may run for the seat has ensued, fueled by Michiganders and national pundits alike.

Both Democratic and Republican campaign committee leadership have stated their dedication to securing the seat once it’s vacated, noting the importance as a swing state in an already narrowly divided Senate.

Michigan Democrats have a deep bench of options to replace Stabenow, with choices ranging from the party’s progressive wing to moderate, purple district politicians. GOP hopefuls could include any of the former statewide candidates who garnered national attention during the 2022 midterm election cycle.

Since 1976, Michigan Democrats have been dominant in Senate races. The only Republican to win a Senate seat in the state since then is Spencer Abraham, who won in the 1994 election. Abraham then lost reelection in 2000 to Stabenow, who has held the seat since.

While no one has officially declared their candidacy for the seat, here is a rundown of potential candidates and what they have had to say about Stabenow's retirement.

Democrats

Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement following Stabenow’s announcement, calling the senator a "champion for Michigan," but seemed to shut down rumors of a run for the seat. 

Whitmer has responded similarly to questions of late regarding whether or not she intends to enter a potential presidential primary race in 2024, saying she’s committed to serving her full term as governor. 

“As governor of this great state for the next four years, I look forward to working with her through the end of her term and beyond in however she serves our state next,” Whitmer said in the statement. 

Garlin Gilchrist

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II has also been floated as a potential replacement for Stabenow, but he’s so far given no indication about plans to seek the seat. However, some have noted that he may be expected to run for governor once Whitmer’s second term expires in 2026. 

Jocelyn Benson

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has received attention on the national stage recently that has some wondering if she’s gearing up to potentially replace Stabenow. 

Benson was the recipient of a Presidential Citizens Medal last week alongside 11 other individuals recognized by President Joe Biden as “defenders of American democracy” in the aftermath of the Jan. 6th, 2021 Capitol riot. 

Benson’s office released a statement commending Stabenow’s decades of service upon her announcement, but Benson said in an appearance on Meet the Press that she's focused "actually on 2024, not as a candidate, but as someone who will be working to protect the voice and the vote of every citizen in our state." 

Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced last year that he would become a resident of Traverse City last year, moving from South Bend, Indiana, so he could run for the seat. However, Buttigieg has said he won’t be seeking to replace Stabenow, according to a statement released by his office on Thursday. 

“I am fully focused on serving the President in my role as Secretary of Transportation, and not seeking any other job,” Buttigieg said. “We are hard at work to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, grow the economy, and create good-paying jobs.”

Haley Stevens

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Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11) is considering a run for the seat, according to an aide who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. 

Stevens re-secured her seat in Congress during a contentious primary against fellow member Andy Levin, after their districts were merged during Michigan’s redistricting process.

"No one has inspired or guided my political career more than Senator Debbie Stabenow,” Stevens said in a statement.

In an interview with The State News, Truscott Rossman Democratic strategist Joshua Pugh mentioned Stevens as a potential candidate for the seat because she has proven she has won tough races in the past.

Elissa Slotkin

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-07) has emerged as a widely-discussed option for Democrats looking to keep Stabenow’s seat. Her decisive, three-point victory over then-state Sen. Tom Barrett in what was deemed one of the most competitive and most expensive congressional races in the country could make her an ideal candidate for a statewide race.

A source told The Detroit News that Slotkin is “seriously considering” a run for the seat in 2024. In a statement released late Thursday, Slotkin did not say what her plans were, but rather mentioned that she held the same seat Stabenow held when she was in Congress from 1996 to 1998 and thanked Slotkin for her work in the Senate.

"Over the next days and weeks, there will be much discussion about what comes next for Michigan, but for now, my thanks goes to Senator Stabenow for being a true public servant tirelessly fighting for Michigan," Slotkin said in the statement.

Andy Levin

His spokesperson, Jenny Byer, confirmed that former Rep. Andy Levin isn’t planning to run to replace Stabenow, dashing the hopes of many progressives after his primary loss to Stevens in August 2022, when the redistricting process merged their districts.

After Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election, Levin, a former union organizer, had been speculated as a potential labor secretary. Now that he is no longer a representative, Levin confirmedhe has discussed potential jobs in the presidential administration.

Dan Kildee

Mid-Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-08) announced through a spokesperson that he would also not be seeking the seat. The statement said that he intends to continue serving his constituency in the House of Representatives. 

“Congressman Kildee knows our state has a talented bench of Democratic leaders to follow in the footsteps of Senator Stabenow and serve Michigan well in the U.S. Senate,” the spokesperson’s statement said. 

Kildee affirmed the statement during a Jan. 5 appearance on MSNBC, stating that he’s committed to his current work.

Republicans

John James

After two failed attempts at Michigan’s senate seats, newly elected Rep. John James (MI-10) could find his opening if he decides to pursue the open spot left by Stabenow in 2024. 

James was the last Republican to run for the seat, back in 2018. However, Stabenow beat him by 6.5%. James went on to run for the Senate again in 2020 but lost to Sen. Gary Peters by 2%.

James has yet to comment on whether or not he intends to seek the seat. 

Tudor Dixon

Former gubernatorial candidate and conservative media personality Tudor Dixon’s name has come up and she reportedly hasn’t ruled out pursuing a run for U.S. Senate. Dixon lost to Whitmer in a landslide election, with Whitmer capturing over 54% of the vote, compared to Dixon's just-under 44%.

In a tweet Dixon said that Stabenow’s retirement presents a critical opportunity for Republicans to reclaim territory lost in November. 

“We cannot allow this seat to be overtaken by the far-left factions of the party who want to take away parental rights, push a radical social agenda over common sense, and have no plans for true economic prosperity,” Dixon tweeted. 

Peter Meijer

Former Rep. Peter Meijer (MI-03) of Grand Rapids gave “no comment” when asked by the New York Times whether or not he intends to seek Stabenow’s seat. 

After voting to impeach former president Donald Trump, Meijer faced backlash from within the GOP and ultimately lost his primary bid against John Gibbs, who then lost the 3rd District to Democrat Hillary Scholten.

Meijer was mentioned by Republican consultant and Harbor Strategic founder John Sellek as someone who would do well in a general election in Michigan, but that first he would need to make it through a primary election. Sellek said that for Meijer to do so, he would need a primary where the vote would be split among other Republican candidates.

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