Sen. Gary Peters Emerges As Key Prospect To Run DSCC

The low-key Midwesterner would be tasked with helping Democrats expand their majority in 2022.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) is considering tapping Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.) to run the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, after more than half a dozen members of his caucus have encouraged him to do so, according to two sources familiar with the process.

The move would place a Midwesterner at the center of expanding Democratic ranks in the Senate, reflecting Democrats’ top two targets in the 2022 cycle: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both parts of the so-called “Blue Wall.”

Sources emphasized that no final decisions have been made yet.

In some ways, the low-key Peters is an odd choice. He had one of the toughest reelection races of the 2020 cycle, even though Democrats initially assumed his seat would be safe. He narrowly 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 President Donald Trump’s losing margin to President-elect Joe Biden.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is widely being discussed as the next potential chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is widely being discussed as the next potential chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

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 non-incumbent Senate Democrat to win a contested race in 2014, one of the worst years for the party in generations.

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, even though he has been a senator since 2015 and in state and local politics for decades.

Ben Ray Luján, a newly elected senator from New Mexico and a former chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, has been talked about as another potential front-runner for the DSCC job. There have also been some discussions around New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand running the committee.

Neither Schumer nor Peters immediately returned requests for comment.

Democrats will control the Senate in the new year, with Schumer serving as the presumptive majority leader. But it will be by the narrowest margin ― the Senate will be split 50-50, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the tiebreaker.

The narrow majority comes after winning two recent runoff elections in Georgia. Democrats had pushed for a more substantial and sustainable majority, spending millions of dollars in bright-red states, but fell short in November. 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 likely to target GOP-held seats in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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