Jan 6, 2023 - Politics

Stabenow's retirement sets off "political earthquake"

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow speaks to reporters last month at the U.S. Capitol building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty

Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced yesterday that she won't seek re-election and will retire when her fourth term ends in 2025.

Why it matters: The Democrat's retirement adds to Michigan's status as a premier 2024 election battleground state and gives an opportunity for new candidates to emerge from both parties.

  • Stabenow, who has been a senator for more than two decades, said in a statement her decision was "inspired by a new generation of leaders."

What she said: "I think it's important to know the time and place where you open doors again for others and pass the torch. I feel like this is really the right time for me, it’s the right time for Michigan," she told the Detroit News.

What we're watching: U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham), Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and others are already being floated as potential Democratic candidates to replace Stabenow.

  • Peter Meijer, Tom Barrett, Mike Cox and Lisa McClain are viewed as viable options for Republicans.

The intrigue: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Mayor Mike Duggan have already shot down a potential run for the position.

  • "Sen. Stabenow's done an incredible job for this state and I congratulate her for going out on her terms," Duggan said yesterday. "I made a promise to the people of Detroit in 2021 that if I were re-elected I'd serve my full four years— the promise I made to Detroiters is ironclad, there is no circumstance under which I'll be running for the Senate."

What they're saying: Stabenow's retirement sets off a "political earthquake" that has "probably spawned a thousand meetings already," Republican strategist John Sellek tells Axios.

  • "There's no reason to believe the GOP primary won't look like last year's," Sellek says, adding that while the Democratic primary also has the potential to be chaotic, steady leadership starting with the governor puts them in a better position to deliver the winning candidate.

The big picture: The GOP hoped Michigan would become a hook for showcasing its inroads with blue-collar voters after former President Trump’s stunning 2016 victory. But since then, Republicans have suffered repeated setbacks — capped by Gov. Whitmer's landslide win last year.

  • Stabenow had defeated some of the GOP's top in-state talent — Spence Abraham in 2000, Mike Bouchard in 2006 and John James in 2018 — but Republicans now have a renewed shot.

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