Stabenow, James agree to two October Senate campaign debates

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, left, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican opponent John James have agreed to two debates on consecutive days in mid-October, a little more than three weeks from the Nov. 6 election.

The first debate is scheduled to be held at Grand Valley State University on Oct. 14 and aired on WGVU-TV.

The second forum is slated for the next day on Oct. 15 at the Detroit Economic Club.  No broadcast partnership has been set on the Detroit debate, Economic Club spokesman Matt Friedman said Tuesday.

“Sen. Stabenow looks forward to debating the important issues that matter most to Michigan families and Michigan communities,” said Jason Ellenburg, Stabenow's campaign manager. “We thank WGVU-TV and the Detroit Economic Club for their continued leadership in informing Michigan voters.”

James, the Farmington Hills businessman and military veteran, has been lobbying  Stabenow to debate for weeks, criticizing her lack of debating opponents and ducking him. He asked for six debates.

"Sen. Stabenow has run out of excuses and realizes that the voters are demanding she debate John James several times this election," said Tori Sachs, James' campaign manager.

"After 43 years of ineffective results and nearly collecting $4 million in taxpayer dollars, Sen. Stabenow needs to come clean to voters about why she has only passed five bills into law over her 20 years in Washington. She needs to explain her lackluster record of inaction and failed leadership to the voters."  

Despite his resume as an Apache helicopter pilot, Army Ranger and businessman, James, 37, faces an uphill battle to unseat Stabenow, 66, who is seeking her fourth six-year term.

She has a large lead in cash with $6.27 million in the bank as of July 18 compared with James' nearly $869,000. Stabenow has spent another $3.2 million to reserve television air time for the last four weeks before Election Day, and she's already been up in Detroit markets with ads touting her work in the Senate.

To help give the James campaign a financial boost, Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit Metro Detroit Wednesday to raise money for the novice Republican. Earlier this month, GOP U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also appeared on behalf of James and to raise money for him.

For her part, Stabenow took to Twitter on Tuesday to attack James and the Pence visit.

"When he voted against saving the auto industry, Mike Pence kicked us when we were down," Stabenow tweeted. "Now John James is buddying up to him to raise money. That's wrong. Michigan needs a Senator who puts Michigan first, not Donald Trump and Mike Pence."

(313) 222-2620