Jul 17, 2023 - Politics

Detroit voters will shape U.S. Senate primary

Hill Harper poses

Hill Harper at an event for "The Good Doctor" in 2022. Photo: Jeff Weddell/ABC via Getty Images

If there's one Democrat who's going to challenge Rep. Elissa Slotkin for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat, it's actor Hill Harper.

Why it matters: Known for his roles on "CSI: NY" and "The Good Doctor," the owner of Campus Martius' Roasting Plant would be the first-ever Black U.S. senator to represent Michigan.

What's happening: Seven years after buying a historic mansion in Boston-Edison, Harper launched his first run for office last week with events in Detroit, Pontiac and Grand Rapids.

  • At the event downtown — which featured a marching band and a campaign-tailored rap song — the Iowa native gave a general pitch hitting on his disapproval with the Supreme Court, union rights and education.
  • A number of local elected officials attended the event, including Wayne County executive Warren Evans and state Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit).

Catch up quick: Harper joins a field of Democrats vying to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow including Michigan Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, businessman Nasser Beydoun, attorney Zack Burns and former state Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit).

  • Harper is the only Democrat with enough clout and resources to compete with Slotkin's monster fundraising totals.

What he's saying: When asked what separates him from other candidates, Harper told the Michigan Advance: "I don’t want to fall into the normal political tropes, because I’m not a politician."

The other side: His biggest challenge will be getting past Slotkin, who has won three highly competitive U.S. House races. She's raised nearly $6 million since launching her campaign in February.

  • For Republicans, Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, former Dow Chemical employee Michael Hoover and Nikki Snyder, a member of the State Board of Education, have declared a run.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, former Detroit police chief James Craig and former Rep. Peter Meijer have also expressed interest.

What we're watching: Endorsements in this race could get interesting. Harper describes former President Obama as a "longtime friend" and this month, he hosted U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) at his Boston-Edison home.

  • But Harper must first earn the endorsement of Detroit-area Democrats.
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