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Grosse Pointe businessman Sandy Pensler poured $5 million of his own money into his Republican campaign for U.S. Senate in Michigan late last year, his campaign said Wednesday.

Spokesman Tom Shields confirmed the contribution, which was first reported by Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Pensler is seeking the GOP nomination to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing.

“Republicans now have an impressive candidate with real business experience and the resources to hold Debbie Stabenow accountable for her four decades of double-talk as a career politician,” Shields said in a statement.

Stabenow maintains a formidable war chest. She raised $1.9 million in the last quarter of 2017 and has roughly $8 million on hand, her campaign said Wednesday.

It is based on her campaign finance report, which hasn’t yet been filed and isn’t due until month’s end.

Shields said Pensler’s $5 million contribution will show up in the 2017 report and that it will represent the “vast majority” of total receipts, as the campaign launched in November shortly before the holiday season.

Pensler previously told The Detroit News he was prepared to spend millions of his own dollars in the race to take on Stabenow.

He is the founder of the Pensler Capital Corp., a private investment firm that owns and operates four manufacturing plants that Pensler says faced potential closure when he bought them, including a Korex Corp. facility in Wixom that produces detergent products.

The $5 million self-funding contributions puts Pensler “in a strong competitive position to win the primary, and it demonstrates his commitment to the race,” said Dave Dulio, chair of the political science department at Oakland University. “He will be able to campaign across the state to build name recognition and spread his message.”

Stabenow’s campaign immediately attempted to raise money off Pensler’s large infusion of his fortune into the race.

“Sandy thinks he can buy a Senate seat for himself and President Trump. If we stand together to support Debbie we can stop him,” according to a campaign email sent Wednesday by “Team Debbie” that aimed to raise $10,000 before midnight Thursday.

Another GOP candidate who had sought the nomination, retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young Jr., dropped out of the Senate race last week, citing low fundraising totals.

Others remaining in the race include John James, a businessman and military veteran from Farmington Hills, and historic preservationist Bobb Carr of Mackinac Island.

James had raised about $309,150 through the end of September, and his campaign contended Wednesday it “had a strong fundraising quarter” without specifying how much money was collected.

“We will be reporting our numbers when we file our reports,” campaign manager Tori Sachs said in a statement, indicating the campaign is assembling an “army of supporters and donors” across the state and the nation.

“It’s going to take a whole army to defeat Debbie Stabenow, and John James is the conservative outsider who will have the army to get that done.”

James’ campaign also released a partial list of his finance team, which includes Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Bishop of Rochester, Dave Trott of Birmingham and Paul Mitchell of Dryden.

Others on the team are John Rakolta III, executive vice president at Walbridge construction company; Bobby Schostak, former Michigan Republican Party chairman; and Mark Murray, former state treasurer and ex-president of Meijer.

If James raises a cash total far lower than Pensler’s amount, “he'll have a lot of work to do to be able to compete with Pensler across the state,” Dulio said, adding Pensler’s contribution doesn’t guarantee a primary victory.

Pensler has never held political office but campaigned for Congress in 1992, losing in the 8th District Republican primary while living in Okemos. Pensler was raised in Detroit and said he has lived in Grosse Pointe the past five years with his family.

Stabenow, 66, has served in the Senate since 2001 and is seeking a fourth term.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736

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