Editorial: Our choice for U.S. Senate

The Detroit News Editorial Board

For a guide to The Detroit News endorsements in all races so far, click here.

Michigan would gain increased influence and better representation for its people in the U.S. Senate by electing John James. It would also send to the Senate a natural leader who could well become one of the chamber's most powerful members.

Currently, both of Michigan's Senate seats are held by Democrats with nearly identical voting records and similar positions on the major issues. That leaves out roughly half of Michigan residents who see things differently. 

Sending the Republican James to the Senate would give Michigan a member from both parties, and one who promises to quickly make a difference.

Republican John James,  a Farmington Hills businessman and Iraq veteran, makes a point during the debate.

Leadership is in James' DNA. He helped lead his family's successful auto supply business. As an Army Ranger pilot, he led soldiers in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And he promises to become a leader of the Senate, while bringing to the body the unique perspective of a Black Republican.

James is challenging first-term Democratic incumbent Gary Peters. We commend Peters on his efforts at bipartisanship and his effectiveness in moving legislation. But he has been a predictable vote for the Democratic leadership, offering little to set himself apart.  

James brings a number of attributes that would elevate the chamber and Michigan, including the fact that he is a Detroit native attuned to the needs of that community.

He's a businessman who understands the impact COVID-19 has had on the nation's industrial base, and what it will take to recover. To stimulate the economy, he advocates continued tax and regulatory reform, as well as policies that encourage more vigorous trade. He would push back hard against efforts to repeal the Trump tax cuts, which pre-COVID had triggered one of the must robust growth spurts in the nation's history. 

While James has been unfairly attacked as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act's protections for pre-existing conditions, he stated in his endorsement interview that he backs that piece of Obamacare. But he would also push market reforms to drive down the cost of health care and would preserve individual health insurance policies.

James' experience in the military is also an asset. The United States Military Academy graduate sees a judicious role for our armed forces that would avoid endless foreign entanglements.

At 39 and the father of three young children, James would also add youth to a Senate whose average age is nearly 62.

This is the right moment for John James.

He is waging his campaign at a time when America is trying to work through its long history of racial animus. 

The summer of discontent that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis has placed the nation's racial divide at the forefront of the fall election. 

As an African American, a conservative and a Republican, James would add an important perspective to policy-making aimed at vanquishing racial inequity.

There are currently just three Black senators — Tim Scott of South Carolina, Corey Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, who is running for vice president. Of those, only Scott is a Republican.

By contrast, Peters is one of 73 white males in the Senate. It's a demographic that's well represented.

Clearly, the Senate would benefit from more Black voices as it addresses this national crisis, as would the Republican Party. The GOP can’t survive as a whites-only institution. Nor can the racial divide close if only one party represents the interests of Black Americans. This effort must have advocates among both Republicans and Democrats.

James speaks powerfully of his own experiences as a successful, young African American, a war hero and family man who still has cause to fear a confrontation with police.

James made his first bid for the Senate two years ago against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, losing by 6 points. This time, his campaign is better organized and funded.

The importance of this race is reflected in the spending by both campaigns, which is expected to top $100 million and is fueled largely by donors from outside Michigan.

The Michigan Senate race is one of a handful of tight contests that will decide which party controls the chamber. 

That could make James the bulwark against total Democratic control of Washington, should Joe Biden win the White House.

The Democrats already have an agenda in place should that happen, and it includes adding more than $5 trillion in new spending to expand the welfare state, imposing anti-growth environmental regulations, increasing taxes on job creators and embedding government more deeply in every aspect of our lives.

Democrats also have hinted they will pack the Supreme Court in retaliation for the 11th-hour appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, and admit Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as states to solidify their majority.

Although Peters is a comparative moderate, he has backed the Democratic Senate leadership on nearly every key vote in his first term, including opposing three well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. He cannot be counted on to check his party’s worst ambitions.

The nation would be better served if at least one of the Congressional chambers remains in Republican hands. The election of John James makes that more certain.

We believe John James has the potential to become an influential senator who, while putting Michigan first, will also speak for a group of Americans who are greatly underrepresented in the Senate.

Endorsements are determined independently by The Detroit News Editorial Board and have no influence on news coverage.