“I’m flabbergasted,” said Dingell, who represents Michigan’s 6th District and is among the state’s highest-profile politicians. “She told me months ago that she was running. … I can’t imagine our delegation without her, but today is the day we celebrate her and then we figure it out.»
Stabenow’s announcement Thursday marks the first major withdrawal before the 2024 cycle, when Senate Democrats will be on the defensive in a list of major swing states. It also kicks off an open primary in a presidential swing state, with Republicans joining promising Democratic talent to eye a competitive race suddenly without a three-term incumbent on the ballot.
“We have a great pool of possibilities,” Stabenow told POLITICO. “So I’ll have a lot of conversations, as you can imagine, with people. I think we have a wonderful generation of leaders on our side, I don’t see the same kind of strong team on the Republican side.»
At least two of Michigan’s most prominent Democrats, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who now divides his time between Washington, D.C., and his family’s home in Traverse City, Michigan, were quick to announce that they were not planning a race. for Stabenow’s seat on Thursday.
Whitmer, in a lengthy statement praising Stabenow’s legacy, noted that as governor, she hoped to «work with her through the end of her term,» a nod to her plans to serve out her full four-year term after winning re-election. by a margin of more than 10 points last year.
Buttigieg issued a statement of his own, noting that he is «fully focused on serving the president in my role as Secretary of Transportation, and not looking for any other job.» Using the present tense, Buttigieg continued, «We’re working hard to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, grow the economy, and create good-paying jobs.» Buttigieg has turned down opportunities to run for the House before and has often described himself as having an executive skill set.
Stabenow declined to say if he spoke to Buttigieg about the seat. “I hope to talk to a lot of people who are interested,” he said. “But, it’s been a pretty busy day so far for me. And I haven’t really had those opportunities yet.»
Former Rep. Andy Levin, who lost his House seat to fellow Democrat Haley Stevens in a primary after it was redrawn, also has no plans to run for the Senate, according to his spokeswoman, Jenny Byer.
Even beyond Whitmer and Buttigieg, Michigan’s Democratic caucus is one of the deepest in the country, with a full slate of elected officials statewide, a large congressional delegation representing undecided seats, and an unusually prominent state legislator. who achieved viral fame last year.
A trio of statewide picks — Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel — could be well placed for a Senate run, as is Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Benson is scheduled to be in Washington, DC, on Friday to receive a Presidential Citizens Medal from President Joe Biden for his role in overseeing the 2020 election in his state.
But several Michigan Democrats noted that all those candidates may also keep an eye on the governor’s mansion, which won’t reopen until 2026.
State Senator Mallory McMorrow, who rose to national fame in 2021 for a speech she delivered on the floor of the State Senate and built an impressive online donor base, has also been floated as a potential candidate.. In a statement, McMorrow praised Stabenow but did not mention his own intentions for the race.
«It’s a traffic jam,» said a Michigan Democratic strategist, who was granted anonymity to discuss the main field candidly, «and I don’t think anyone will clear the deck.»
Michigan will be an epicenter of political activity going into 2024. For the first time in 40 years, Democrats control all the levers of power: the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature. What they can accomplish, including creating new business and job opportunities in one of the oldest states in the nation, will have a potentially profound impact on the political landscape.
Republicans are also expected to play aggressively in the state, and not just at the presidential level. The Republican primary for Stabenow’s seat could be just as complicated as the Democratic one, with a host of options ranging from former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost a Republican primary to a Trump-backed candidate last year, to Rep.-elect John James, who just won a congressional seat after an unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid, according to several national Republican operatives.
Two former gubernatorial candidates could also weigh in on the race, according to a national strategist who works on Senate campaigns, including Perry Johnson, a Detroit-area businessman, and Kevin Rinke, another former gubernatorial candidate and auto dealer.
Other prominent Republicans remain in the state, such as Tudor Dixon, who lost a gubernatorial bid to Whitmer in 2022. A person with knowledge of Dixon’s thinking said she is “not ruling anything out, but remains focused on how she can help Republicans win in 2024”.
Such a potentially vast field could reopen fresh wounds, on the heels of a bitter end to Dixon’s campaign that saw the co-chairman of the Michigan GOP lashing out at Dixon and Republican donors who «hate» former President Donald Trump for the party. . the board’s losses in the state.
But Republican operatives in the state said they hoped they could avoid a cantankerous contest to fill Stabenow’s job. I don’t see them behaving like [the] Ohio Senate primary,” said Jason Cabel Roe, a Michigan-based Republican consultant, citing the 2022 Ohio Senate primary, when the race turned into a battle for Trump’s endorsement.
Sarah Ferris, Marianne LeVine, Meredith Lee Hill, and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.