Peters to lead Senate Democrats' fundraising efforts

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peters will chair Senate Democrats' campaign fundraising arm for the next election cycle — an appointment that could raise his national profile as Democrats seek to expand their control of the upper chamber. 

Peters' selection for the two-year stint helming the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee comes after he won reelection to a second term last fall against a well-funded Republican challenger, John James, in a battleground state.

Peters of Bloomfield Township was a top target of Senate Republicans, and outside groups devoted about $40 million in spending against him. Peters defeated James, a Farmington Hills Army veteran and businessman, 50% to 48%.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters

“Gary Peters is a hardworking, disciplined and effective member of the Senate, and I know he will be an outstanding DSCC chair to ensure Democrats protect our strong incumbents and go on offense to expand our majority,” said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who chose Peters for the job. 

Schumer said the campaign committee would work with grassroots organizations to turn out voters and expressed confidence that a "battle-tested" Peters understands "what it takes to win challenging battleground races." 

Peters' appointment is a nod to his fundraising success in one of the most competitive races of the 2020 election. James raised more money than Peters in several quarters, but the senator generated more overall, bringing in $52 million to James' $48 million, according to federal disclosure reports. 

Peters, the incoming chairman of the Senate Homeland Security panel, has faced tough races previously. He lost the 2002 race for Michigan attorney general by 5,200 votes.

But he was the only Senate Democrat to win election to the chamber in 2014 across the country, overwhelmingly clinching the open seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land as the GOP took control of the Senate. 

At the DSCC, Peters succeeds Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, whom he credited with helping Democrats win the Senate majority. The chamber is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote giving Democrats the edge.

“I look forward to drawing on my own experience winning tough races to continue that work, and I am grateful to Majority Leader Schumer and our caucus for trusting me with this responsibility," Peters said in a statement. 

Peters' counterpart at the National Republican Senatorial Committee is Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican. The group on Thursday revived its "Jerry" nickname for Peters, which was used during the 2020 campaign to mock his low name recognition. 

“We are thrilled that Senator Peters was chosen for this position. It is an inspiration to uninspiring people everywhere that even Jerry Peters can reach a leadership position in the Democrat Party," NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline said. 

“It won’t be an easy job. Defending the job-killing, tax-raising, open borders policies of the Radical Left while combatting a primary challenger to Chuck Schumer will be tough to juggle. But we’re confident that Jerry Peters will do whatever is needed to be done to help Republicans win back the Senate in 2022.” 

Scott this month hired longtime Michigan political operative Stu Sandler to be his political director as the GOP aims to win back the Senate majority. 

Sandler was a consultant to James' campaign and that of freshman U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township. He was also a consultant for the Michigan Republican Party and legal counsel to Chairwoman Laura Cox.

He co-founded and led the consulting firm Grand River Strategies and previously worked with the Michigan House Republican Campaign Committee and on the 2002 attorney general race when Peters lost to Republican Mike Cox.

"Talked to a lot of great Republicans today who are very excited about winning back the US Senate majority," Sandler tweeted.

"Thanks to everyone who reached out w/a call, text, email or tweet & for all the kind words. And to all the haters, I appreciate how riled up you get for someone you don't know."