2012-07-28 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Durant, Stabenow Make Strides In Senate Race
By George Weeks

With about two weeks remaining before the August 7 primary, GOP Senate hopeful Clark Durant has had recent endorsement success and Democratic Senator Debbie is on a roll in fundraising and legislatively on Capitol Hill.

Durant of Grosse Pointe Woods, a longtime GOP activist (son of late 20th century Metro Detroit GOP figure Dick Durant) and a driving force in the Detroit area charter school movement, has substantially trailed ex-nineterm U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra of Holland in polling on the primary.

(Inside Michigan Politics said July 16 that a poll it commissioned had Hoekstra with “three times more support than Durant and arch-conservative candidates Randy Hekman and Gary Glenn combined.”)

But Durant won two key endorsements last week, and launched a spiffy television ad, wryly calling himself, as he stood on camera by a motorcycle that he does not ride with a leather jacket he does not wear, a “rebel with a cause” against excessive government spending.

The Detroit Free Press, which had endorsed Hoekstra in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, said it “narrowly” endorsed Durant in the Senate primary “for his outsider’s perspective and his commitment to elevating the GOP agenda to include a strong focus on urban renewal, specifically where education is concerned.”

Then, to the surprise to many of us after he had just launched an effective radio ad, Gary Glenn of Midland, head of an American Family Values organization who was endorsed by 40-plus tea party groups, withdrew from the race.

Although his name will appear on the August 7 ballot, Glenn endorsed Durant, co-founder of Detroit’s Cornerstone Schools.

Durant told The Detroit News of Glenn’s endorsement: “This is a game changer. It’s been the culmination of the grassroots conservatives coming together to challenge the Washington establishment represented by Pete Hoekstra and Debbie Stabenow.”

The paper said Glenn, hampered himself by limited funds, is convinced Hoekstra can’t shore up the conservative base to beat Stabenow, and considers it a “duty” to support a candidate best suited to do it.

A media burst but relatively meaningless blip in the GOP endorsement derby: Ex-Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), a former actor, presidential candidate, and now shill on television commercials, did one to endorse Durant. Unlike Glenn, Thompson lacks Michigan ground troops.

Another celebrity blip in the GOP Senate primary: The Dugger family of TLC’s “19 and Counting” endorsed ex-Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman—who counts 12 children and 22 grandchildren.

As for incumbent Stabenow, she has long maintained substantial leads of more than 10 points in polls over Hoekstra and Durant. Most importantly, she has a huge fundraising advantage.

In the second quarter she had nearly $1.4 million in net contributions and ended the quarter with $4.5 million in cash on hand.

The Michigan Democratic Party noted July 20 that Hoekstra in the quarter raised $724,000, “less than half” of her total, while she out-raised Durant’s $272,844 “more than five-to-one.”

Impressive as Stabenow’s early figures are, what will count in the fall are the millions that the national parties and the Super PACs, which can pour in unlimited funds for both sides on what is likely to be Michigan’s most expensive Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, chairing the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow has won some congressional and media kudos for Senate passage on a 65-34 vote of the farm bill, formally called the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act.

She told the National Journal regarding the workup of her committee: “Having members on both sides who had a deep understanding of the issues meant our discussions were focused on creating better policy and most cost-effective programs not ideology.”

That’s a good rallying call for all committees in both chambers of Congress.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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