Ex-Senate candidate John James says he was called a racial slur in Florida

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

John James, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and one of the most prominent members of the Michigan GOP, says he was called a racial slur Monday while on a walk in Florida.

In an interview, James said his family has been on a trip near Bradenton, Florida. On his way back from the grocery store, a large pickup truck drove by and someone screamed out the window, "Die" and then used the N-word.

"I want to encourage anyone out there who’s ever dealt with racism because ... of the color of their skin or who’s ever been lumped in with racists because... of the color of their skin," James posted on Twitter after the incident. "Hate is hate but love is stronger than hate."

John James

The Monday tweets are among the few public comments James, a military veteran and businessman from Farmington Hills, has made since he conceded a close race for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

The Democratic incumbent beat James by fewer than 100,000 votes, 50%-48%. James outperformed Donald Trump, the former GOP president, who lost to President Joe Biden by 154,000 votes.

In a Monday night interview, James said he went public with his experience in Florida because he wanted to encourage "anyone who has ever dealt with this." James labeled racism a "scourge" and said people need to recognize that "we're all on the same team."

“The hardest job is setting a good example by showing people on all ends of the ideological spectrum exactly what leadership looks like, exactly what strength and love look like," he said.

James said he has been dealing with racism his whole life. He said he was raised by people who had it much worse than him.

The incident in Florida took place on the 50th anniversary of the founding of his family's trucking company in Detroit by his father, John A. James. The younger James said he's been focused on commemorating the anniversary by doing things to help people. He and the company announced Monday that it would offer $50,000 in educational scholarships and $50,000 in microloans for entrepreneurs in Detroit.

"We are here because God has been good to us, and we are in a remarkable position to be good to you," James said in a video announcing the James Group Drive Initiative.

James has unsuccessfully run for the U.S. Senate in the last two statewide elections, losing to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, in 2018, and Peters in 2020. However, he's outperformed expectations and gained a large political following.

During the Monday interview, he frequently spoke about leadership but wouldn't directly answer a question about whether his political career is over.

His focus is on spending time with family and making sure his family's company, James Group International, is successful, James said.