James launches bid for Congress in Macomb swing district, promises school focus

Washington — Republican businessman John James announced Monday he is launching a campaign for the open U.S. House seat in the competitive new 10th District that's centered on Macomb County. 

James, 40, of Farmington Hills is the highest profile GOP candidate to enter the race for the district, which covers parts of Macomb and Oakland counties including Rochester Hills, Warren and Sterling Heights.

The businessman had been recruited by national Republicans who hoped he'd run but he was also considered a possible contender for the gubernatorial race. In an interview Monday, the former U.S. Senate candidate and Army veteran acknowledged he had weighed the possibility of running against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"That was something that I prayed about hard," James said. "It’s something that I really labored over. After talking to my wife, we both came to the conclusion that I want to serve my country again.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James speaks after dropping off his ballot in Farmington Hills in this Oct. 26, 2020 file photo.

He ran for U.S. Senate twice and lost in 2018 and 2020 against incumbent Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, though he outperformed the top of the GOP ticket in both races. He ran with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. 

Asked if he'll seek Trump's endorsement this year, James said the endorsement he needs most is from the voters in the 10th District.

"It would be an honor to get the endorsement from any president," the Republican said, suggesting he would accept the endorsement. "President Trump has done enough for me."

If elected, James said he wants to focus on education. He specifically mentioned giving "power" back to parents. He would also use the position to advocate for Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, he said.

In reaction to his announcement, Michigan Democrats painted him as a repeat candidate who lost twice before.

"Every one of his other campaigns were tone deaf and failed to appeal to Michiganders, we expect more of the same during this next campaign for the 10th congressional district," said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party. "Losing two statewide campaigns two election cycles in a row should send a clear message to John James, Michiganders are not interested in him representing them."

In a video announcement on Twitter Monday, James pitched himself as an "open-minded, free-thinking conservative."

"I'm not afraid to listen, even if you disagree with me. I'm not a career politician. But I do know how to create Michigan jobs," James said. "Faith and family, God and country, service before self. That matters to me because I'm guided by my core principles that have not changed."

The 10th District seat is open after redistricting because U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, opted to run for reelection next door in the 11th District that covers parts of Oakland County, along with Rep. Haley Stevens, who had lived in Rochester Hills until late last year.  

Republican Eric Esshaki of Birmingham is also running in the 10th and over the weekend reported raising just over $423,300 last quarter. 

The Democrats haven't yet recruited a high-profile candidate with broad name ID for the 10th. Democrats officially in the race include Warren City Councilwoman Angela Rogensues and first-time candidate Huwaida Arraf, a civil rights attorney who lives in Macomb Township. Former state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, and Macomb County Circuit Judge Carl Marlinga are also possible contenders. 

James is president of his family's business, the James Group International, a supply-chain management firm in southwest Detroit. 

"I will use my real-world experience as a CEO in supply-chain management to alleviate the supply-chain crisis driving up the price of everything from groceries to medicine," James said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

“Our community needs a congressman who is grounded in real life. A leader who will defend our freedom, ensure good-paying jobs are available at home and offer to extend a helping hand to our neighbors in need.”

James doesn't reside in the new 10th District, though he isn't required to live there to be elected to Congress. "Any decision to move will be made in close consultation with his wife and family," spokesman Jerrod Dobkin said.

James' race against Peters in 2020 was one of the most expensive in the country that year. Peters of Bloomfield Township defeated James 50%-48%. He lost to Stabenow of Lansing by 6.5 percentage points in 2018.