By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) – Rep. Gary Peters announced his candidacy for retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s seat Wednesday, officially entering a Democratic field that has been all but cleared for his campaign.
The 54-year-old three-term congressman is a former state senator and lottery commissioner who won bare-knuckle House races in 2008 and 2010. He is from Bloomfield Township in Oakland County, a suburban Detroit bellwether important to winning a statewide race.
“This is a critical time for Michigan, and our main streets and middle class need an independent voice fighting for them,” Peters wrote in an email to supporters. “Washington is a mess, but Michigan is on the verge of re-inventing itself with a new economy and a middle class that’s stronger than ever — and I want to be on the front lines of that fight.”
Peters already has more than $800,000 on hand for his campaign and no other Democrats are expected to seriously challenge him. Debbie Dingell, a former General Motors executive and wife of Democratic Rep. John Dingell, recently opted not to run.
Peters, who served 14 years in the Navy Reserve, held a low-key afternoon event with reporters at a downtown Rochester restaurant — on a street where he previously worked as an investment adviser and inside a building where his great-grandfather once owned a carriage repair shop.
He said that while government spending must be controlled, Medicare and Social Security should survive into the future. He called Levin, the longest-serving senator in state history, a role model.
Peters plans to stop in Lansing and Flint on Thursday and Grand Rapids on Friday, with visits to northern Michigan later.
With Peters’ candidacy official, attention turned to Republicans, who have their best shot to win one of Michigan’s Senate seats in 20 years given Levin’s retirement.
The GOP Senate campaign committee is hoping to coax seven-term Rep. Mike Rogers, 49, of Brighton into the race. A former FBI agent, he chairs the House Intelligence Committee and may be reluctant to give that up for an uncertain bid for the Senate.
“I am humbled by the support I have received to run for the U.S. Senate in Michigan,” Rogers said in a statement. “I am taking a serious look at the race, discussing with my family and talking with my constituents about how I can have the most impact serving Michigan. I plan to make a decision in the near future.”
Rogers has $1.4 million in his campaign account.
Former Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, 54, of Byron Center and two-term Rep. Justin Amash, 33, of Cascade Township, a favorite of libertarians, also have expressed interest in the race.
Land said Wednesday she is waiting for Rogers’ decision. If he does not run, there is a good chance she will.
A message seeking comment was left for Amash, who has $114,000 in his campaign account and has tweeted that the GOP should not put up an “unelectable establishment candidate” with no appeal for independent and moderate voters.
Though Republicans control Michigan state government, including the governorship and Legislature, Democrats have fared well in federal elections. The state has gone for Democrats in six straight presidential elections.
Just one Michigan Republican has won a Senate seat in 40 years. Spencer Abraham’s 1994 victory came in a non-presidential election year like 2014 will be. He lost six years later to Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
The GOP noted Peters lost his only previous statewide campaign — a 2002 run for attorney general — and since has voted for the contentious federal health care law and a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions.
“It takes a special kind of guy like Peters to ask for a promotion from the very same people that his policies would put out of work,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring said in a statement. “If Gary Peters is indeed the Democratic candidate in Michigan, Republicans have a great opportunity to pick up this seat and move closer to taking the majority in 2014.”
Peters defeated an incumbent Republican congressman in 2008 and survived a national GOP wave in the 2010 midterm election. He was ranked as the most moderate Democrat in Michigan’s House delegation in 2012.
Republicans “attacked me very aggressively in 2010 in a very difficult year for Democrats,” Peters told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “Gov. (Rick) Snyder won my district by over 20 points and I was still elected even with those attacks. If you explain why you vote the way you vote, and connect to real challenges middle-class families are facing, that’s what people want to hear.”
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