Trump, Pence endorse GOP candidate James in U.S. Senate race

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James, a businessman from Farmington Hills, addresses supporters during the "Macomb for John James" event held at Villa Penna banquet hall in Sterling Heights, Mich., Monday, July 16, 2018.

Washington — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Friday separately endorsed U.S. Senate hopeful John James in the Michigan Republican primary.

James, an Iraq veteran and businessman from Farmington Hills, is seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate against Grosse Pointe financier Sandy Pensler. 

Trump delivered the endorsement by Twitter on Friday amid a flurry of other campaign endorsements. 

".@JohnJamesMI, who is running in the Republican Primary in the great state of Michigan, is SPECTACULAR! Vote on August 7th. Rarely have I seen a candidate with such great potential. West Point graduate, successful businessman and a African American leader," Trump tweeted. 

"John is strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, our Vets and our Second Amendment. He will be a star. He has my full and total Endorsement!" 

Pence followed with his own endorsement on Twitter: "Proud to support @JohnJamesMI for U.S. Senate. Leaders like John are the FUTURE of the GOP. I know he will be a strong champion of @RealDonaldTrump's agenda. To the great people of Michigan — get out & vote Aug 7 for John!"

James, 37, welcomed the endorsement by Trump, who has become an issue in the GOP race. 

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of President Trump," he said in a statement.

"With this morning’s announcement of 4.1 percent economic growth, America’s economy is thriving under President Trump’s leadership.  I want to help the president create more economic opportunity, secure our borders and strengthen our national security.  

"From the battlefield to the boardroom, I have the experience to get the job done for Michigan. I look forward to working with President Trump to help create policies that better the lives of Michigan families."

James was campaigning in west Michigan on Friday and plans an Aug. 6 rally in Metro Detroit with Kid Rock — another major endorsement. 

GOP opponent Sandy Pensler told The Detroit News on Friday that he heard about the Trump endorsement.

"Well, I'm disappointed," said Pensler, who was campaigning in Three Rivers. "That's that. But we'll continue fighting through but, yeah, I'm disappointed."

The Grosse Pointe businessman later added in a statement that he continues to support Trump and his policies.

"I believe Michigan Republican voters will see that I have a greater depth and understanding of the issues and will be a stronger voice for our great state in the U.S. Senate," he said.

James has been attacking Pensler for having derided Trump as talking like a "fourth grader." 

Pensler has countered that this was a distortion because he was saying Trump boils issues down to a fourth-grade level, which is a skill.

Pensler has been attacking James on immigration in debates and television ads. He's focused in part on James' political donations to Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, a Democrat who is an advocate of "sanctuary cities" — jurisdictions that limit cooperation with in federal immigration officials. 

James has said he went to "a meet-and-greet" for Castaneda-Lopez, gave money to her because his companies are located in her district and didn't realize she was a sanctuary cities supporter. He has said he wants to end federal funding for sanctuary cities.

The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will challenge U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who is seeking a fourth term.

Stabenow has a significant fundraising edge, bringing in nearly $10.7 million so far to Pensler's largely self-funded $5.2 million and James' $3.9 million. 

Stabenow ended last quarter with $9.6 million in cash reserves. Pensler had nearly $2.28 and James had $1.34 million.