DemDaily: Measuring Michigan

February 28, 2023 

Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin announced her candidacy for the US Senate Monday, becoming the first Democrat to officially vie for the seat being vacated by four-term Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) who announced her retirement January 5.

Stabenow was first elected in 2000, unseating incumbent Republican Spencer Abraham and becoming the state's first female US Senator. She was easily reelected to the Senate in 2006 and 2012 by, respectively, 16% and 19%, and in 2018, by 6.5%.

She previously served in Congress for two terms and earlier in both the Michigan State Senate and State House.

Well-respected by colleagues, Stabenow rose to Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in 2007 before taking over as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee in 2011.

Stabenow's exit heightens Michigan's status as one of 2024's most critical battleground states -- one that will play a significant role in determining control of both the Senate and the presidency.

Michigan is one of 34 US Senate seats up for election in 2024, 23 of which are being defended by Democrats. The Great Lake State voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by roughly 10,000 votes, the first time it had voted Republican since 1992. Joe Biden flipped Michigan back to blue in 2020 by just under 3%.

Elissa Slotkin, 46, was elected to Congress in 2018 to what is now the Lansing-based Seventh District and was reelected in the November midterm elections by 5%. Her general election contest against former Republican State Senator Tom Barrett drew the most outside spending of any US House race in 2022 at $27 million. That was in addition to the $10 million raised directly by Slotkin and $2.8 million by Barrett.

In her Senate campaign video announcement, Slotkin emphasized her bipartisan national security experience prior to entering politics. Fluent in Arabic and Swahili, she served three tours in Iraq as a CIA analyst under then-Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She also served as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 2014 to 2017.

Although Michigan has a deep bench of qualified Democrats, Slotkin's organization and fundraising prowess may have already whittled down the field, positioning her as the consensus candidate.

A formidable list of contenders who have declined to run include Governor Gretchen Whitmer; US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who now has a home in Traverse City, Michigan; Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist; Congresswoman Haley Stevens and State Senator Mallory McMorrow.

Potential, but unlikely, candidates include Attorney General Dana Nessel, Congresswomen Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib, as well as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is reportedly eyeing the 2026 governor's race.

Former Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who retired in 2022, and former State Representative Leslie Love have expressed public interest, as has former executive director of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce Nasser Beydoun, and The Good Doctor actor Hill Harper.

In 2022, Michigan Democrats flipped both the State Senate and State House, achieving a trifecta -- control of the State Senate, State House, and Governorship -- for the first time since 1983. The state has never held a Democratic trifecta with a Democrat in the White House.

The Republican field has yet to take shape, with just two announced candidates -- State Board of Educators member Nikki Snyder and businessman and political newcomer Michael Hoover.

Potential GOP contenders who have publicly expressed interest include Congressman Bill Huizenga (4th CD), Congresswoman Lisa McClain (9th CD), State Senator and former Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, 2022 gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke and former Congressman Mike Rogers.

Former Congressman Peter Meijer, who was defeated in a primary battle last year following his vote to impeach Trump in 2021, and former Congressman Fred Upton, who also voted to impeach Trump but did not seek reelection in 2022, are also reportedly weighing a bid -- along with 2022 gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, who lost to incumbent Governor Grethen Whitmer (D) in November by close to 11 points, and Barrett, Slotkin's 2022 rival.

2018 and 2020 US Senate nominee and current Congressman John James (10th CD) has declined.

In a good sign for Democrats, the Michigan Republican Party this month chose election denier Kristina Karamo as their new State Chair. Karamo -- - who has yet to concede her own 14-point loss as the 2020 GOP challenger to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson -- ran to the right of Trump-endorsed chair candidate Matthew DePerno, who ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General last year.

Republicans arguably lost what should have been control of the US Senate, and what was supposed to be a historic sweep of the US House in 2022, in large part due to the nomination of ultra-conservative MAGA candidates who proved unelectable in the general election.

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: Red State, Blue State 2/27/23
DemDaily: The Contenders: The GOP Field Takes Shape 2/21/23
DemDaily: The 2024 Senate Race Ratings 2/7/23
DemDaily: The 2024 Senate Landscape 1/17/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Ballotpedia, NBC, NPR, Axios, Politico, Open Secrets

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