Pence: Stabenow 'standing in way' of GOP agenda

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James, left, waves to the crowd after introducing Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday at a campaign stop in West Bloomfield.

West Bloomfield — Vice President Mike Pence called on Michigan voters Wednesday  to end the career of Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and elect John James, a "special man with a special story.” 

The Lansing Democrat "has been standing in the way of our agenda" of lowering taxes, supporting conservative justices and opposing abortion, and James will change the situation, Pence said here at a fundraiser for the Republican candidate attended by more than 120 people at the Shenandoah Country Club.

James “has a unique ability to bring leadership and a renewed vision” to Washington and work with President Donald Trump and others to continue the Republican agenda, said the vice president, who was making his second appearance this month in Michigan.

“And I’m not the only one who thinks so,” Pence said. "... The president and I were talking and the president said to me: 'That John James, he’s the real deal.'”

The vice president said he was happy to be back in Michigan, “the state where the blue wall crumbled in 2016 and the red wave to begin in 2018.”

“I’m here in Michigan for one reason and one reason only: Michigan and America need John James in the United States Senate,” Pence said.

Stabenow took to Twitter on Tuesday to attack the vice president's visit.

"When he voted against saving the auto industry, Mike Pence kicked us when we were down," she 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."

James praised Trump and the vice president in a speech that covered familiar themes that he’s serving the country and fighting for America as he did as an Apache helicopter pilot in Iraq. 

“The vice president being here sends a clear message across the country,” James said. “It’s been 24 years since Republicans have won a U.S. Senate race in Michigan.”

Republican Spence Abraham last won in 1994 but was defeated by Stabenow for re-election in 2000.

The trip was Pence's seventh visit to Michigan as vice president and his third fundraising event this year. He did a March fundraiser in Detroit for GOP U.S. House members, including Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester, and a June fundraiser in Birmingham for Michigan Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette.

Schuette said Pence is helping to lift the entire Michigan GOP ticket with his constant presence in Michigan, Schuette said.

“It’s a big deal. He’s come here repeatedly,” said the attorney general.

Schuette said it was fitting for James’ candidacy to receive attention at a time when the nation lost a great American hero and war veteran in the late U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“I think it’s fitting that we have a warrior, a soldier, an aviator, a businessman named John James and he’s going to win this race,” he said.

Former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who last year signed on as a co-chair of the campaign, said it’s important to have the White House supporting James.

“The guy is a complete contrast to Debbie Stabenow,” Richardville said about the 66-year-old lawmaker. “He’s not a 43-year entrenched, career politician. He’s a fresh 37 year old. He’s come from the battlefield. He’s fought for things he believes in."

Others attending the fundraiser were James' father, wife and brother, as well as Rep. Bishop and Historic Little Rock Baptist Church senior pastor Jim Holley of Detroit. 

James needed the Pence fundraiser because he trails Stabenow in campaign cash. 

Stabenow had $6.27 million in the bank as of July 18 compared with James' nearly $869,000. The incumbent has spent another $3.2 million to reserve television air time for the last four weeks before Election Day, and she is already airing ad in the Detroit area market touting her environmental work.

Earlier this month, GOP U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also appeared with James to raise money.

James also addressed the crowd, saying Michigan voters "have a chance not only to flip a seat but flip the script" in electing him to the Senate. He would become only the second Republican African-American in the U.S. Senate.

James also argued that Pence's visit "here sends a clear message" that Stabenow is "vulnerable" this fall. 

Stabenow and James have agreed to two debates on consecutive days in mid-October, a little more than three weeks from the Nov. 6 election. She didn't debate Republican former Congressman Pete Hoekstra in 2012.

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