Virus Outbreak Congress

In this image from video, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Michigan’s two candidates for the U.S. Senate are neck and neck with only three weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election.

Democrat incumbent Gary Peters has seen his once-significant lead slip to 1 percentage point against Republican challenger John James, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll in which Peters showed 43% support to James’ 42%. The NYT/Sienna poll placed James at 31% against Peters’ 41% last June.

Other polls indicate the race between the two candidates might not be as tight as the NYT/Siena poll, however. RealClearPolitics reports Peters (47.9%) still has an average 5% advantage over James (43%) based on a tally of available polls. Each of those polls place Peters slightly ahead of his competitor, with one exception: the Republican Trafalgar Group puts both candidates at 47%.

Whereas, the nonpartisan Emerson poll shows Peters with a 10% advantage; CBS News puts Peters ahead by 3%; Reuters by 7%; CNBC by 8%; and the Detroit News at 5%. EPIC/MRA places Peters ahead by 15%; Target-Insyght/MIRS by 16%; and CNN by 16%.

James and Peters are vying for the seat once occupied by Sen. Carl Levin (1979 to 2015). Peters took office as Michigan’s junior senator in 2015, after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 9th District from 2009 to 2013 and the 14th District from 2013 to 2015.

Democrats are hoping to retake majority control of the U.S. Senate in November, which would entail picking up at least four seats; or three seats if former Vice President Joe Biden wins his presidential bid against incumbent President Donald Trump, which would grant Sen. Kamala Harris, as vice president, a Senate vote in the event of a tie.

The 2020 race is James’ second bite at the senatorial apple. The former Army helicopter pilot and West Point graduate lost his previous bid to unseat Michigan’s U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat and three-time incumbent, by a 52% to 46% margin.  

As his profile has risen since the last election, James’ campaign war chest this year has swollen from Republican donors to an estimated $14 million.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has injected $5.4 million from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee to assist Peters’ Michigan campaign.

James and Peters have subjected Michigan television viewers to a barrage of advertising over the past two months, which delineate the policy differences between the two candidates. While Peters is an advocate of the Affordable Care Act and has stated he’d like to expand its provisions, James said he would work to amend the ACA to include tort reform.

Although Peters hasn’t fully endorsed the Green New Deal, he has expressed support for several provisions included in it to fight climate change. James, on the other hand, has expressed his opposition to the Green New Deal and its high costs. Both candidates support the Great Lakes Initiative.

When it comes to abortion rights, James is pro-life while Peters is endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood. While Peters has co-authored legislation to expand background checks for those purchasing firearms, James has stated he’d be willing to consider legislation to limit the availability of firearms to the mentally ill as long as such a regulation didn’t impinge on individual rights.

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.