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John James is challenging Sandy Pensler to a series of three debates in June and July as the Republican primary race begins to heat up.

Businessmen James of Farmington Hills and Pensler of Grosse Pointe are competing to see who will take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing in November.

James on Tuesday proposed a schedule of debates hosted by the Michigan Republican Party (June 5 or 18), the Ottawa County Party (July 10) and the Macomb County Republican Party (July 19).

“Michigan needs a proven leader and a true conservative who will put the work in to deliver results, not just disappear into the swamp for another six years!” James said in a statement.

Pensler spokesman Tom Shields said that “candidates who are down in the polls such as Mr. James want more debates to try and save their failing campaigns.”

“We actually have been is discussions with the Michigan Republican Party regarding potential U.S. Senate primary debates for months and look forward to working with them to schedule appropriate events,” Shields said.

Michigan GOP spokeswoman Sarah Anderson said, “We are in the very early discussion and planning stage. We have heard from both campaigns that they are interested, but nothing is confirmed.”

Republican candidates for governor faced off May 9 in Grand Rapids for the first televised debate of the election cycle. A second televised gubernatorial debate is set for June 28 at WDIV-TV in Detroit.

mburke@detoitnews.com

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