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In GOP Senate primary, John James

The Detroit News
Farmington Hills businessman and veteran John James

It will be no small feat for a Republican to unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow this November. But of the two candidates vying to take on the task, Detroit businessman and veteran John James would be the more impressive challenger. 

Stabenow, who has held the seat since 2000, doesn’t face an opponent in the Aug. 7 primary.

James, a political newcomer, has worked to build a following, relentlessly traveling the state. He’s drawn donations from more than 30,000 supporters, according to his campaign. He’ll need such widespread grassroots support. 

James, who is 37 and African-American, offers Republicans a much-needed shot of youth and diversity. He is from Detroit and runs a business in the city, and has the potential of appealing to city voters in November, something a GOP candidate has rarely done. 

James is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and West Point. He went on to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when he flew Apache helicopters. He earned a Combat Action Badge and other honors. James spent eight years in the service before returning to Michigan to become president of his family’s transportation and warehousing business, James Group International. He also has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan. 

James says his priorities would revolve around national security and job creation — two areas he knows well given his background. He also says he supports President Trump’s economic agenda; specifically, what the president and Congress have done to reduce the tax burden and roll back regulations. 

As a veteran himself, James is passionate about wanting to ensure those who have served the country are treated with more care when they return to civilian life — and are given the resources they need to find jobs or health care. 

Protecting the Great Lakes and improving Michigan’s infrastructure are also high on his to-do list. 

He is opposed by Grosse Pointe businessman Sandy Pensler, 61, in the primary. Pensler is also running a solid campaign, but one almost solely funded by his own personal contribution of $5 million earlier this year. That allowed him to get a head start on buying TV and online ads.

Pensler boasts degrees from Yale and Harvard and has a background as an economics professor and financial adviser. His depth of knowledge on the economy is evident. And he currently owns and operates four manufacturing plants. He says his focus would be on making Michigan a leader in jobs, education and other emerging fields. 

John James brings the necessary enthusiasm and vision, and he’s a fresh candidate the Republican Party should champion.