Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced in a statement Thursday that she will not run for reelection when her term is up in January 2025. She said she has been inspired by other generations of politicians and wishes to pass the torch to other leaders in Michigan.
Stabenow outlined the political work she has done in Michigan throughout her career, starting in 1974 when she was elected to the Ingham County Commission at the age of 24. She was the first woman to chair the board.
“As the youngest and first woman to chair the Board, this began years of breaking barriers, blazing trails, and being the ‘first’ woman to reach historic milestones as an elected official, including the honor of being the first woman from Michigan elected to the U.S. Senate,” Stabenow said in her statement. “But I have always believed it’s not enough to be the ‘first’ unless there is a ‘second’ and a ‘third.'”
The Michigan AFL-CIO released a statement in which they praise Stabenow for helping working people in the state.
“Working folks in Michigan and across the country have been positively impacted by her achievements in her time in public service,” Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said. “In her historically productive career in the U.S. Senate, Debbie never wavers from her core values and always puts Michigan’s working families first.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement on the ways Stabenow has changed policies for Michigan, including passing legislation as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, working towards good-paying jobs in trades, expanding manufacturing in Michigan and being a "fierce protector" of the Great Lakes.
“Most of all, she is an incredible friend,” Whitmer said. “Debbie is one-of-one. 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.”
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in the statement Michigan needs to continue the legacy Stabenow has created.
“Senator Debbie Stabenow has built an incredible legacy as a trailblazer, history-maker, champion for Michigan, and friend," Gilchrist said in a statement. "In her advocacy on mental health, making Michigan the best place to make and grow things, and protecting our natural resources, she has done so much to build a state we can be proud to pass on to our kids."
While Gilchrist is one of the Democrats speculated to run for the seat in 2024, both Democrats and Republicans are hypothesizing on who would be able to fill Stabenow’s shoes in this seat.
However, Truscott Rossman Democratic strategist Joshua Pugh speculated on the bench of Democrats who may look to run for the seat.
Pugh highlighted Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-8) as a frontrunner, calling her “exceptionally qualified."
Slotkin called Stabenow an “invaluable sounding board” and that she had personally thanked her for “everything she's done," in a social media post on Thursday.
Pugh added state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), Rep. Hillary Scholten (MI-3) and Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11) as possible successors to Stabenow. He said that Stevens knows how to win a tough race and would be a strong candidate.
“Being the first woman to represent as senator from Michigan, I thought it was great what (Stabenow) said about this being the right time to step aside and allow maybe the second woman to represent Michigan in the Senate,” Pugh said.
Pugh does not see the Republican Party picking up the seat.
“I think that we have a great tradition in Michigan of running Democrats who are really successful in federal elections,” Pugh said. “The reason is that they have shown an ability and an adaptiveness of taking the state's concerns and really championing them and fighting for them in Washington.”
John Sellek, a Republican consultant and founder of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs speculated on what Republicans could take the seat. While Democrats have several candidates who could run, Sellek said the Republicans don’t have the same organization without a party chair or a list of possible candidates.
Sellek said the possible candidates could reflect the primary race for the gubernatorial election with Tudor Dixon, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, Perry Johnson and Garrett Soldano. He also mentioned former state attorneys general Mike Cox and Bill Schuette.
Sellek highlighted former Rep. Peter Meijer as a possible GOP nominee. Meijer lost in a primary race earlier this year. Sellek called Meijer a "fabulous" candidate in the general election, but he would need a multiple-candidate primary so that the vote would be split among different candidates.
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“The Democrats would not love the idea of facing him," Sellek said of Meijer. "That's why they took him out themselves, in Grand Rapids.”
In addition to Meijer, Sellek also said Rep. Lisa McClain (MI-10) is a possible candidate.
“She's already proven to be really ambitious and moved up in the leadership ranks in Washington,” Sellek said. “She's funded at least part of her own campaign, so she's got some resources other than Tudor Dixon, she's the only other woman that has shown up on this list so far for the Republicans.”
He also believes that a rematch between Slotkin and former state Sen. Tom Barrett is possible. Sellek said outside of Whitmer, he thinks Slotkin is the most obvious candidate if Democrats are looking for a "centrist" to fill the seat.
Sellek is worried about Michigan Republicans nominating candidates who are inexperienced, lack funding or are associated with the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.
However, Sellek said Democrats are afraid with the many politicians that could have a chance at the seat, it may split the vote more than the Republican party.
“They're under pressure from the president in the White House to figure out how to keep the seat under control without too much trouble,” Sellek said. “They control all the levers of power in Michigan.”
When Stabenow's term is over, she plans to spend time with her family, including her 96-year-old mother.
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