As GOP Struggles, Democrat Slotkin Touts A Key Endorsement in Michigan Senate Battle

Plus: Hill Harper, an actor on ABC's "The Good Doctor," is expected to join the Democratic primary against Rep. Elissa Slotkin this summer.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is running for Senate, earned an endorsement Wednesday from Democratic colleague Rep. Haley Stevens.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is running for Senate, earned an endorsement Wednesday from Democratic colleague Rep. Haley Stevens.
Associated Press

Rep. Elissa Slotkin is rolling out the first congressional endorsement of Michigan’s Democratic Senate primary, aiming to consolidate support while a competitor with Hollywood credentials gets closer to launching a campaign in a contest where a serious Republican nominee is so far MIA.

Slotkin’s colleague, Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat who represents a swath of suburban Detroit, is endorsing her on Wednesday. Stevens passed on launching her own Senate bid in February but called Slotkin “the best of our state” and said “no one is more prepared to lead.” Both Slotkin and Stevens entered Congress five years ago after flipping formerly red seats in the Michigan suburbs that had helped elect Donald Trump to office in 2016.

Stevens’ high-profile endorsement comes as Hill Harper, an actor known for roles on “The Good Doctor” and “CSI: NY,” eyes a bid for the nomination to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Harper, a Michigan transplant, is expected to enter the Democratic primary after the beginning of a new fundraising cycle in July.

To date, Slotkin is the biggest name to enter Michigan’s Senate contest, which is a must-win for Democrats to maintain their slim control of the upper chamber in 2024. The party is also defending seats in Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but it hopes Michigan — despite its history of close presidential elections in 2016 and 2020 — can be an easier hold, given the state GOP’s lack of a bench, the growing extremism of the state party and Democrats’ sweep of both legislative chambers in 2022.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from 2020, when the Republican Senate nominee, now-Rep. John James, came within 100,000 votes of incumbent Democrat Gary Peters.

Stevens and Slotkin both entered Congress in 2018, flipping red seats in a critical presidential swing state. Michigan voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. Slotkin, a 46-year-old former CIA analyst, represents a House district stretching from Lansing to the outskirts of Detroit that voted for the Republican presidential nominee in the last three elections. Slotkin’s pitch to Democrats is that she can win over Republicans and swing voters in a state with plenty of both who decide elections.

“In 2018, Elissa Slotkin and I flipped red seats to blue,” Stevens said in a statement announcing her endorsement. “I have served with her through the COVID-19 pandemic, difficult elections, and the violent attack on our democracy. I have seen firsthand her deep understanding of the economic needs of our state; she identifies problems and tackles them head-on.”

Slotkin made waves in her most recent reelection with an endorsement from Republican and former House member Liz Cheney, a critic of Republican extremism and Donald Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Slotkin’s declared challengers on the Democratic side include Pamela Pugh, president of Michigan’s Board of Education; Nasser Beydoun, a restaurant owner; and Leslie Love, a former state legislator.

Harper hasn’t officially announced his candidacy, but he’s been spending time at Democratic events across the state. He recently settled a $24,000 overdue property tax bill on his Detroit mansion, a sign to some that he’s clearing the decks for a campaign. Harper could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Republicans, meanwhile, are struggling to recruit a serious candidate, the absence of which might erase the state from the GOP’s battle map and all but guarantee the seat stays in Democratic hands.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) neglected to mention Michigan in a recent CNN interview discussing the 2024 election map. McConnell detailed the GOP’s efforts not to “screw this up,” a reference to the slate of extreme and unelectable candidates backed by Trump that prevented Republicans from winning the chamber in last year’s midterm elections.

National Republicans, scrambling in their search for a competent candidate, are reportedly trying to recruit John Tuttle, the vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange and a native of southeast Michigan.

John James, who won a Michigan congressional seat last year and who was the GOP’s Senate nominee in both 2018 and 2020, declined another statewide run. The party’s declared candidates include Michael Hoover, a business owner, and Nikki Snyder, a nurse and member of the state board of education.

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