Michigan Senate: The Race to Succeed Stabenow Is On

by Erin Covey January 5, 2023 · 11:25 AM EST

After serving in the Senate for the past 22 years, Debbie Stabenow announced this morning that she won’t seek re-election in 2024. The race to succeed the Democratic senator is guaranteed to draw serious attention and resources from both parties.

The Democratic Party has a deep bench in the Great Lakes State. Michigan Democrats swept in competitive races last November, bolstered by a ballot amendment codifying abortion rights that spurred Democratic turnout. Democrats also credit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who won her reelection bid by double digits, with energizing voters in the battleground state.

Whitmer herself could run for this open seat, and would likely clear the Democratic primary field if she were to launch a campaign. However, her spokesperson has said she will not run for the seat. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel, all re-elected to their statewide offices in 2022 and term-limited in 2026, would be credible contenders.

Michigan’s congressional delegation also includes some younger, battle-tested Democrats such as Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens — though if Slotkin were to run, she’d risk leaving her swing seat more vulnerable to Republicans in a cycle when Democrats only need to net five seats to take control of the House. Former Rep. Andy Levin, ousted in a member-on-member primary against Stevens, could wage a political comeback. And state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a rising star whose floor speech reacting to a Republican attack drew national attention, is a possible contender as well.

And Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg recently changed his residency to Michigan, the home of his husband Chasten Buttigieg — and a state with plenty of opportunity for an ambitious politician like the former presidential candidate. But Buttigieg seems unlikely at this point.

Republicans, who haven’t held a Michigan Senate seat since 2000, have fewer obvious options. John James, the newly-elected Republican congressman who ran against Stabenow in 2018 and Sen. Gary Peters in 2020, didn’t rule out a bid, per the Washington Examiner

Former Rep. Peter Meijer might get early attention, but it’s not clear whether he can win a GOP primary, considering he lost his own in 2022 after voting to impeach Trump. Current 2nd District Rep. Bill Huizenga is a possibility, along with former Rep. Fred Upton — if he’s not elected Speaker of the House. 

This was a battleground race before and after Stabenow’s decision. After the 2022 elections, Democrats have a 5-point advantage in the state (51.1-46.1 percent), according to Inside Elections' Baseline. It’s likely to be one of the top races in the country for the entire cycle, with the presidential race at the top of the ballot having an impact on the Senate winner.