Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan is the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in charge of trying to expand his party’s majority in the 2022 election cycle.
“We have a great opportunity in 2022 to defend and expand our Democratic majority so we can keep working to protect our health, rebuild our economy stronger than before and deliver real progress for the American people,” Peters said.
As HuffPost first reported earlier this month, Peters had emerged as the top candidate with more than half a dozen of his colleagues urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to choose the low-key ― and little-known ― Midwesterner.
“Gary Peters is a hardworking, disciplined and effective member of the Senate, and I know he will be an outstanding DSCC Chair to ensure Democrats protect our strong incumbents and go on offense to expand our majority,” Schumer said, adding that Peters was “battle-tested and understands firsthand what it takes to win challenging battleground races.”
Peters had one of the toughest reelection races of the 2020 cycle, even though Democrats initially assumed his seat would be safe. He defeated Republican rising star John James by just under two percentage points. James, a Black businessman and veteran, consistently outraised Peters and ran roughly a point ahead of Donald Trump’s losing margin to Joe Biden.
But to his supporters in the Senate, the fact that Peters did ultimately come out ahead shows that he knows how to win the difficult contests. He also has experience winning in tough political environments: He was the only nonincumbent Senate Democrat to win a contested race in 2014, one of the worst years for the party in generations.
“Well, on the positive side, I’m immediately launched into leadership as the president of the Democratic freshman class,” he joked to HuffPost at the time. “I can also say that my class speaks with one voice.”
Peters keeps a very low profile nationally, and even within Michigan. One of his biggest challenges in his most recent campaign was that voters did not know him well, despite the fact that has been a senator since 2015 and in state and local politics for decades.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a statement mocking Peters’ low profile and deliberately using the wrong name for the senator.
“We are thrilled that Senator Peters was chosen for this position,” NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline said in a statement. “It is an inspiration to uninspiring people everywhere that even Jerry Peters can reach a leadership position in the Democrat Party.”
The NRSC also mocked Peters as “Jerry” during the 2020 campaign ― and he nevertheless won.
The Senate is split 50-50, but Democrats are in control because Vice President Kamala Harris is able to act as the tiebreaker. The party won two crucial runoff elections in Georgia, but it had been hoping for a larger majority after spending millions of dollars in red states.
Polling misses and misspent millions prompted soul-searching among Democratic senators, with some pushing for significant changes to how the party runs campaigns.
Midterm elections typically punish the president’s party, and Democrats are defending Senate seats in four swing states: Arizona, New Hampshire, Nevada and Georgia. They’re also likely to target GOP-held seats in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
This piece was updated with comment from the NRSC.