By Paul Rozycki
The 2020 Michigan U.S. Senatorial campaign may be nearly a year away, but it got an early kickoff when incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters paid a visit to the White Horse Tavern in Flint Nov. 23 for one of his first campaign fundraisers.
He was greeted by a standing-room-only crowd that included lots of local political leaders, as well as many other supporters.
The event was hosted by State Senator Jim Ananich, State Representatives, John Cherry, Sheryl Kennedy, Tim Sneller and former Representative Jack Minore. Also hosting the event, were Marion Lee and Bobbie Walton, who are members of the Progressive Caucus of the Genesee County Democratic Party.
Congressman Dan Kildee and Jack Minore introduced Peters with memories of how they both campaigned with him, and served with him, before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Peters addressed the audience briefly, welcoming their support, and pointed out that while he wasn’t from Flint, the problems of Flint have long been a major focus of his political activity. He also spoke of the importance of keeping his seat if the Democrats hope to win control of the Senate.
Peters was also greeted by newly elected Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, as well as a number of candidates who are running in the special election to fill Neeley’s seat in the state House 34th district. That special election is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Peters is running for his second term, having been elected in 2014 when he filled the seat vacated when Sen. Carl Levin retired. That year he defeated Republican Terri Lynn Land to win his first term. He had earlier served three terms as a member of the U.S. House from the 14th district, which includes much the eastern city of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Pontiac, and Southfield.
Before that, the Navy veteran had served as Michigan Lottery Commissioner, and as a member of the State Senate. In 2002 he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Michigan attorney general, losing to Republican Mike Cox.
The race is expected to be very competitive, and may draw national attention for several reasons.
Peters is one of two Democratic senators who will be running for reelection next year, in states carried by Donald Trump in 2016. The other is Doug Jones of Alabama, who also is facing a challenging reelection. Michigan is considered a key state in the presidential contest next year.
Though the election is nearly a year away, he is expected to face a tough challenge from Republican John James, a military veteran and businessman, who ran a very strong campaign against incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2018. Though James lost by seven points, he did better than most expected for a first time candidate.
Most polls show the race to be very close at this time, and both parties are already airing TV ads for the campaign.
EVM Staff Writer and political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.