The first 2024 Senate retirement decision was made public yesterday as four-term Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow of Michigan announced that she will not be a candidate for re-election next year.
The Senator intends to serve the remaining two years of her current and final term.
The rather surprising announcement initiated a flurry of political activity where virtually every political figure in Michigan in both parties saw their name being mentioned as a potential Senate candidate. Some have already removed themselves from consideration. Several of the Democratic statewide officials can be considered potential candidates, however.
One of the more serious prospective Democratic candidates is US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) who reportedly may announce her statewide campaign as early as next week. Ms. Slotkin was first elected to the House in 2018. She has won three tough elections and while never reaching 52% of the vote in her swing Lansing metro area district, Rep. Slotkin has become one of the most prodigious fundraisers of any House incumbent.
During her three congressional elections, she has raised over $26 million, or an average of $8.8 million for each of her competitive campaigns. Therefore, the Congresswoman has demonstrated the fundraising ability to become a viable contender in a large-state Senate election battle.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) is also said to be studying a potential Senate race. Apparently, so are Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), while Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) and freshman Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit) said they will not run. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who has recently moved to Michigan, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and defeated US Rep. Andy Levin also said they will not become candidates. Additionally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is sending clear signals that she intends to serve her second four-year term in its entirety.
The first Republican name being mentioned is 2018 and 2020 Senate nominee John James, who won the 10th Congressional District race in November. He first lost to Sen. Stabenow, 52-46%, a better result than any prognosticator predicted. He finished even closer to Sen. Gary Peters (D) in 2020, losing by a 50-48% split even when President Donald Trump was losing Michigan by almost three full percentage points. In his swing new congressional district, Mr. James defeated former prosecuting attorney and judge Carl Marlinga (D) by a scant 49-48% margin.
In response to a potential 2024 Senate bid, Mr. James responded, “look, I haven’t even been sworn into Congress, yet. So, here’s my plan: Get sworn in and get to work serving the people of Michigan’s 10th District.”
Other Republican Senate possibilities include US Reps. Bill Huizenga* (R-Holland) and Lisa McClain* (R-Bruce), former Attorney General Mike Cox, 2022 gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson, former US Representatives Fred Upton and Candice Miller, and possibly Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel.
With Sen. Stabenow running for re-election, the Michigan race would have been considered a second-tier campaign. In an open configuration, the contest moves to the top tier and we will see an expensive, highly competitive battle come 2024. Chances are good that the result will end in close fashion, but the eventual Democratic nominee will still be favored to capture a tight victory.
Prior to her election to the Senate in 2000, Ms. Stabenow served in the House of Representatives, the Michigan state Senate and House, and as a member of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. She won her first election in 1974 and, with the exception of just a three-year hiatus from her original victory to the present, has been in elective office during that entire period.
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