Detroit chamber backs Peters while other chambers support James

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

The Detroit Regional Chamber on Monday endorsed Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters in his re-election effort against Republican businessman John James, praising the first-term incumbent for his bipartisan efforts in Congress.

The development occurred two months after the Michigan and U.S. chambers of commerce backed James, a Farmington Hills Iraq War veteran who runs an auto logistics firm in Detroit. It also happened on the same day the Grand Rapids chamber backed James.

The Detroit chamber's endorsement came after both contenders appeared and took questions last week on a variety of issues at a online digital town hall.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, left, and Republican businessman John James.

"Sen. Peters’ bipartisan and pragmatic approach has earned him accolades as one of the most effective members in the U.S. Senate and is a trait we find refreshing in today’s highly charged political environment," said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the chamber, in a statement. "Peters is the leading U.S. Senator focused on advancing next-generation mobility, which is critical in accelerating Michigan’s role as the global leader in automotive and advanced manufacturing industries."

The Detroit chamber occasionally breaks ranks with Michigan's other regional and statewide chambers. 

Peters, the former U.S. representative who is seeking his first re-election to the Senate, called it an "honor" to get the chamber's endorsement. He received the Detroit chamber's endorsement in 2014 against Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former secretary of state.

"As one of the most bipartisan and effective members of the Senate, I’ve passed legislation to expand workforce training and skilled trades opportunities and am focused on ensuring Michigan is a manufacturing hub," Peters said in a statement. "As we continue to face unprecedented challenges, I will keep working to find bipartisan solutions that put Michigan’s small businesses and manufacturers first and help strengthen our middle class."

The James campaign responded by noting the endorsement of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

"I am grateful for the support of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and am eager to get to work in Washington to help Michigan not just grow jobs, but job creators," James said in a statement. "They need support from their leadership in Washington, not partisan career politicians who back burdensome regulations that make owning and doing business more difficult."

The U.S. and Michigan chambers noted their own reasons for backing James.

"Michigan needs better and stronger leadership in the U.S. Senate...," Michigan Chamber CEO and President Rich Studley said in July. "James is an entrepreneur who is passionate about our state and country, and he will be a dynamic, energetic and effective leader in the U.S. Senate."

In a private Zoom call with chamber officials across the country, Studley introduced James as part of the endorsement of the U.S Chamber process.

"In challenging times, we are reminded of the importance of having leaders who understand the genius of the American system of government and free enterprise and who are willing to tackle the hard problems that confront our nation,” U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement that was read on the Zoom call. "Your continued leadership in Congress will benefit the nation as we combat the coronavirus, work to restore economic growth and expand opportunities for all Americans."

James also spoke on the call, saying if he wins, "I'm looking forward to being able to bring my first-hand experience running a business in Michigan to be able to represent all Michiganders, but especially those of us who are not just focused on creating jobs, but creating job creators."

The Senate race is considered a tight battle and will help decide whether Republicans keep control of the upper chamber. Peters led James 44% to 41% in a Sept. 1-3 Detroit News-WDIV-TV poll, which had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

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