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25 July 2005

Senator Debbie Stabenow - Michigan 2006

(Another image from the D.C. trip...)

While this blog is obviously focused on Senator Feingold, urging him to run for president, and trying to build support for him in Michigan (which I'm hoping to write a lot more about in the next couple weeks), 2006 is approaching a lot faster than 2008. So I'd like to take a moment to draw everyone's attention to one of Michigan's two biggest races.

Representing us in Washington, we've got Senator Debbie Stabenow, who launched her campaign website not too long ago. As this is the first time she's facing reelection, having won her seat in 2000 over former Senator Spencer Abraham, the conventional wisdom is that this will be her hardest race. After open seats, first-time incumbents are generally the most contested races. But maybe Democrats will get lucky with this one.

Survey USA has her at a 48% approval rating, with 36% disapproval, in June 2005. Not exactly safe, but not too shabby either. And, via Michigan Liberal, it seems she got some good news recently:
Jane Abraham has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, avoiding a possible showdown with the woman who defeated her husband for the seat five years ago.

Abraham, 43, has talked to party officials and traveled to Michigan to meet with party activists to discuss a possible run in past months. But she told The Associated Press on Wednesday that family considerations made her decide to stay out of the race.
Abraham could have been the toughest opponent to beat. Right now, there are three active candidates on the Republican side: Bart Baron, Rev. Keith Butler, and Rev. Jerry Zandstra (though Politics1 has a fourth candidate listed, Nasser Beydoun). It seems the GOP has had quite a lot of trouble recruiting high-profile candidates for the Senate race, with Rep. Candice Miller looking toward Governor Granholm (though even that is in question) and others, including Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land, probably passing this year. Unless Domino's Pizza CEO David Brandon steps in, Keith Butler is the Republican frontrunner.

So let us look for a moment at Rev. Butler. Although he's never run for a statewide office, his website tells us that he has been active in Republican politics since 1982 or so, and in 1989 was elected to a spot on the Detroit City Council. He is also the founding pastor of the Word of Faith International Christian Center Church, which claims a 21,000 member congregation. The major strength stressed by many pro-Butler Republicans is that he can win a large percentage of the African American vote in Detroit, weakening Stabenow's strength in what is usually a solid Democratic base.

In fundraising, however, Stabenow has a commanding lead heading in. During the first half of 2005, she raised about $2.5 million, and has a total of $3.87 million already, with no expected primary challenger. Butler, on the other hand, has raised $800,673 in the same period, and has only $403,000 on hand-- still impressive compared to other candidates, but far less than Stabenow. He also faces a primary race which could get ugly if Brandon does decide to get into it, which will leave him weaker come November 2006.

Indeed, the timing of the primary may help Stabenow. Set for August of 2006, that leaves only a few short months for whomever the Republicans nominate to move to the center and define themselves to the general electorate-- something that Stabenow will have been doing for the entire year.

As of right now, it looks good for Stabenow, with an EPIC/MRA poll giving her 57% to Butler's 30% (poll mentioned at the end of the article). But this is one that Michigan Democrats and Democrats across the country had better watch.

Next time, a look at Governor Jennifer Granholm, also up for re-election in 2006.


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