LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Democratic Michigan Sen. Gary Peters won reelection Wednesday, defeating Republican challenger John James in a tight race.
He continued Democrats’ dominance of Senate elections in the battleground presidential state. Republicans have won just once since the 1970s.
Peters is a former congressman, state lawmaker, lottery commissioner and investment adviser who served in the Navy Reserve. He ran by emphasizing his bipartisan work, his ranking as one of the most effective senators and James’ support for President Donald Trump.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Peters said he was “honored” to have been reelected and promised to keep working for Michigan:
“I am sincerely honored that the voters of Michigan have once again put their trust and confidence in me to represent them in the United States Senate. As we look ahead, I am energized to keep working to move our state forward and continue putting Michigan first. Most of all, I want to extend my gratitude for all of our hardworking election officials and every single person who believed in me, who believed in our mission and volunteered their time and efforts into fighting for a better future.”U.S. Sen. Gary Peters
Earlier in the day, James retweeted his campaign consultant’s claim that he had “won this race” — despite Peters later taking and building his lead to about 74,000 votes, or 1 percentage point — drawing criticism from Democrats. James’ campaign did not immediately comment on Peters’ victory.
Despite the win, Democrats sustained setbacks elsewhere and faced increasing odds in the battle to reclaim control of the Senate from Republicans.
The non-flashy Peters, 61, was one of two incumbent Democrats to seek reelection in a state Donald Trump won in 2016 — a presidential battleground no less and a rare place on the Senate map for Republicans to play offense in 2020. James, a 39-year-old Black businessman and Iraq War veteran, waged a stiff challenge as he aimed to become the first Michigan Republican to win a Senate seat in a quarter-century.
“Michigan Democrats are thrilled that hard-working families across our state have voted to send Gary Peters back to the Senate. Senator Peters has been a fighter for Michigan — putting working families over special interests, defending our Great Lakes and always fighting for affordable health care and to protect Michiganders with pre-existing conditions. We’re proud that he’ll continue to serve our state with his commitment to effective, bipartisan leadership for another six years in the U.S. Senate.”Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes
Peters criticized James’ opposition to the federal health care overhaul and noted James backed Trump “2,000%” during his first campaign — a 2018 loss to Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
James, a dynamic campaigner who would have become Michigan’s first African American senator if he had won, highlighted his leadership of his family’s automotive logistics company in Detroit and his service in combat after graduating from West Point. His campaign gave 5% of donations to charity.
He called Peters a “do-nothing” career politician and questioned his bipartisan credentials, noting he voted against confirming all three of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.
The candidates and allied groups spent more than $131 million on TV, digital and radio ads — eighth-most among Senate contests, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG. Democrats poured at least $13 million more into advertising than Republicans did. James, unlike other Republican Senate candidates, largely kept pace in fundraising with his opponent.
Despite Republicans’ hopes that James could win even if Trump lost, he did not substantially outperform the president — trailing by about 1.3 points instead of Trump’s 2.5-point deficit with 99% of precincts reporting.
Republicans have taken just one of Michigan’s last 15 Senate races, in 1994, when Spencer Abraham won an open seat.
Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.