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Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said Monday he is endorsing his former opponent, businessman John James, in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Michigan.

Young, a Detroit native, told WJR’s Frank Beckmann that he believes James is the “principled conservative” that the GOP needs to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, who is seeking a fourth term.

Young, now in private practice, dropped out of the Senate race earlier this month citing lackluster fund-raising.

“I took a little detour, but I am proud to support John James for the U.S. Senate. I like to say in politics, as in life, character and conviction matter, and I think John has both,” Young said on WJR.

“I hope everyone who supported me will support John because I think he is a principled conservative who believes in those values and why the federal government has to be restrained to act within its constitutional confines. He’s a wonderful young man.”

James, 36, of Farmington Hills has fared better in the fund-raising department than Young but is facing financier Sandy Pensler, 61, of Grosse Pointe, who has invested $5 million of his own money so far in his primary campaign.

Historic preservationist Bobb Carr of Mackinac Island is also running.

Young met with all the GOP candidates but, “by far, James is the guy who is worthy of my support,” he said.

“To get an endorsement from somebody you looked up to for a number of years is quite humbling. I wouldn’t have even imagined this, first getting in. Former Chief Justice Young has been a champion of conservative values before it was en vogue, before it was cool, and before Donald Trump won Michigan,” James said on WJR.

“This is a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s done for the conservative movement around the state. It’s a distinct honor that he’s accepted the request to join the team.”

Young told WJR a few weeks ago that he believed he could have won the nomination, but multiple candidates competing in the Republican primary contest in August leads to a “war of attrition” that doesn’t give the eventual nominee enough momentum to mount a winning challenge to Stabenow in the fall.

Young, who is black, suggested that a conservative African-American candidate like James, an Iraq veteran, can win the votes of black voters who historically support Democratic candidates.

“I think John in every way imaginable is a very attractive candidate for anyone who believes in the American dream and wants our country to be better. I think his story is the American dream,” Young said, citing James’ decision to serve in the U.S. Army.

“I think irrespective of your race or gender or whatever else, I think people will be attracted to his candidacy, as was I.”

Stabenow has handily beaten past GOP challengers. She raised $1.9 million in the last quarter of 2017 and has roughly $8 million on hand, her campaign has said. She has served in the Senate since 2001.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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