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Stabenow not endorsing in primary as Michigan’s U.S. Senate race narrows

Debbie Stabenow, wearing a colorful shirt, sitting at the porch of the Grand Hotel
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said she’ll be “deeply involved” in keeping her Senate seat Democratic upon her retirement, but isn’t endorsing in the primary. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s not planning to endorse a preferred successor until after the Democratic primary
  • Businessman Nasser Beydoun disqualified from the ballot over invalid nominating petition sheets
  • Elissa Slotkin, Hill Harper still competing for Democratic nomination. Republican candidates include Mike Rogers, Sandy Pensler

MACKINAC ISLAND — As the Democratic primary narrows in the race to replace her, retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s holding off on an endorsement until the general election. 

In an interview with Bridge Michigan at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Stabenow said she is not weighing in on the Democratic contest, which shrunk Friday with the disqualification of Nasser Beydoun, making it a two-person race between U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and actor Hill Harper.


But Stabenow said she’ll support the Democratic nominee in the general election as well as other Democrats on the ballot, including President Joe Biden and candidates for the state House. 

“I'm deeply involved in supporting the president and Vice President (Kamala) Harris, and, once the primary is over, will be deeply involved in making sure my senate seat stays blue,” she said. 


Stabenow’s decision not to run for re-election this fall opened up a swing state seat as national Republicans make a serious play for control of the upper chamber and Democrats seek to hold their one-seat majority.

Multiple candidates are vying for both the Republican and Democratic nominations in what’s expected to be a close general election race. 

The bipartisan State Board of Canvassers on Friday voted unanimously to disqualify Beydoun, a Dearborn business owner, because he listed a post office box on his nominating petitions instead of a street address required under Michigan law.

“I did nothing wrong in my petitions and my filings,” Beydoun told canvassers before the vote, arguing that using a P.O. Box rather than a home address didn’t affect the legitimacy of voter signatures he collected.

Beydoun indicated he may still take the matter to court and suggested his petition address was a matter of personal safety: “With today’s political environment … you want everybody in the state to know where you live?”

Separately, the board rejected longshot challenges and instead certified petition signatures from Slotkin and former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, the early frontrunner for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. 

Elissa Slotkin, wearing a green long sleeve shirt and black vest, speaking into a microphone
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin said her campaign strategy won’t change even if the race becomes a two-person primary fight. (Courtesy)

Slotkin is widely considered the Democratic frontrunner due to her fundraising prowess and name recognition. In an interview this week with Bridge, she said Beydoun exiting the race won't change her approach. 

“It doesn't change a lot for me whether there's one primary opponent or two, because I'm not spending my days attacking them,” Slotkin said, suggesting she's focused on “keeping it positive.” 

Each of the Democratic primary hopefuls – including Beydoun – attended this week’s Mackinac Policy Conference, where business and political power players gather to network and discuss issues facing Michigan. 

Harper held a wide-ranging press conference on Thursday, challenging Slotkin to four debates before the Aug. 6 primary and expressing frustration she bowed out of a bipartisan debate that had been planned for the island. 

On Beydoun’s exit from the race, he suggested voters who supported Beydoun could find a home with his campaign: “I believe that I would be their candidate of choice instead of Rep. Slotkin,” Harper said. 

Hill Harper is wearing a blue shirt. He surrounded by supporters
Detroit actor and author Hill Harper (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)

Stabenow and the Democrats seeking to replace her all stressed their support for Biden and said the stakes are high, especially considering Donald Trump’s continued support among Republicans despite ongoing criminal cases. The former president on Thursday was convicted by a jury on 34 counts of financial crimes related to a hush money scheme.

“My Republican colleagues are embracing somebody with 88 felony indictments,” Stabenow said. “I think that should be a problem if there's one, so hopefully that will factor in.”

Among Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, only business executive Sandy Pensler made public appearances on Mackinac Island this week.


Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, who had also backed out of the island debate, is polling well among likely Republican primary voters and has the support of Trump, whom he defended after Thursday’s jury conviction in what he called a “rigged trial” that left “an indelible stain on our nation."

Other Republican candidates include former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash and physician Sherry O’Donnell. 

Pensler, in an interview with Bridge, acknowledged he did some “soul searching” after he failed to secure Trump’s endorsement himself but said he doesn’t plan to back out of the race. 

“I do think Michigan (voters) will make up their own minds,” he said.

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