Central Michigan University political science professors called U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, the early favorite to win U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s soon-to-be open Senate seat.
Peters said earlier this month that he would be running for the Senate seat following Levin’s announcement that he would be retiring. Levin has been one of Michigan’s two senators since 1979.
“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, a former Central Michigan University Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government, said in an email to supporters May 1.
Although the 2014 midterm election is still roughly 18 months away, CMU political science professor Orlando Perez said Peters has “a good chance” of winning both the Democratic nomination for the seat and the race itself.
“One of his advantages is having represented parts of Oakland County, which is a critical area for statewide races,” Perez said. “He is also well-known to Democratic donors across the state and will have no problem raising the needed money.”
Director of the School of Public Service and Global Citizenship David Jesuit agreed, saying Peters has a number of advantages, but needs to have a high turnout rate.
“I think he has to be considered the favorite, but a lot of that depends on turnout, because, it is a midterm election,” he said. “I think he would be even more heavily favored if it was a presidential election, but the governor’s race could turn out voters, too. Both parties … will be spending resources and working hard to turn out their voters.”
Peters cast himself as an independent politician in his email announcing his candidacy.
“Set politics and party aside; if it’s not right for Michigan’s small businesses and middle class, it’s never been right with me,” he said. “I think that kind of independent approach is exactly what Michigan needs in the Senate right now.”
Michigan has not had a Republican senator since Sen. Debbie Stabenow narrowly beat out former Sen. Spencer Abraham for the seat in the 2000 election. Perez said that has a chance at changing in 2014.
“Given that the race is for an open seat and that 2014 is the six-year midterm elections for President (Barack) Obama, I believe a strong Republican candidate could win the seat,” he said. “Of course, a lot will depend on who the Republican nominee is, how divisive the Republican primary will be and who the Democratic nominee is. I think this will be the best opportunity Republicans have had in years to win a Senate seat.”
Jesuit said nominating a somewhat moderate candidate and hoping the GOP is viewed more favorably by voters is key to Republican success in 2014.
“In the 2010 midterm elections, there was a political movement that favored Republicans,” he said. “They would have to hope there would be that same kind of backlash against, let’s say, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or something like that, where there would be a grassroots movement.”