2017-10-07 / News

Mackinac Island’s Bob Carr Seeks U.S. Senate Office

By Stephanie Fortino

Bob Carr, pictured with his wife, Karen, is running for the U.S. Senate. (Bob Carr photograph) Bob Carr, pictured with his wife, Karen, is running for the U.S. Senate. (Bob Carr photograph) When reviewing the ballot for the August 7, 2018, primary for U.S. Senate in Michigan, voters on Mackinac Island will recognize a familiar name: Bob Carr.

Running on a platform to revitalize Michigan’s downtowns, Mr. Carr has filed to become one of Michigan’s two senators in Washington, D.C. He hopes to run in the general election against incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Mr. Carr is running on the Republican ticket, joined by Trump Michigan co-chair Lena Rose Epstein, ex-Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young, and Detroit businessman James John. Gaylord nonprofit group CEO Craig Smith has filed to challenge Mrs. Stabenow in the Democratic primary and Detroit labor union president Anita Belle of the Green Party also has filed for the Senate seat. Candidates have until April 24, 2018, to file so more could jump in.

Mr. Carr ran in 1996 for U.S. Representative in Michigan’s First Congressional District, but failed to displace Democratic incumbent Bart Stupak. He says he is running for the Senate after members of the Republican party approached him earlier this year.

“I didn’t have any idea of running for office,” he said. “I thought I was done.”

Mr. Carr says Michigan’s U.S. Senator should be focused on the state first. He seeks to run a positive campaign.

He and his wife, Karen, divide their time between Mackinac Island and Traverse City, which serves as his campaign headquarters. They have been fixtures of the Island since the early 1970s, when Mr. Carr participated in the grassroots effort to save the Round Island Lighthouse. In 1974, he was asked to head the Island’s Chamber of Commerce.

Mackinac Island is a family of which he and his wife are proud to be a part, he said. His mother was from Mackinac and his father was the photographer at Grand Hotel. The couple didn’t stay together and his mother struggled with prescription drug addiction. At nine months old, Mr. Carr was placed in foster care, bouncing from home to home. He considers his first foster family, the Carrs, his adoptive family and took their last name.

Growing up in the foster care system, Mr. Carr said, “I was raised by the State of Michigan.”

With their recreational vehicle and Great Pyrenees puppy, Carlie Carr, the couple travel the country, but always come back to the Great Lakes State.

“We are Michigan people,” he told the Town Crier. “Michigan is our home and we love it best.”

Through the years, the Carrs have moved throughout the state, pursuing projects to help communities. With an interest in historic preservation, he boasts successful historic and community development projects in at least 50 towns.

In the late 1970s, the Carrs moved to Benton Harbor, which at the time was considered the worst town in the country, he said. To address needs in the community, he and a group of others opened a soup kitchen, which is still in operation.

“Our goal was to teach education and respect, becoming an inner-city family,” he said.

Community pride is essential to a community’s success, he says. If he wins the election, he wants every member of his staff to become a community specialist, focused on strengthening downtowns for the long-term vitality of their communities.

He said being one of Michigan’s U.S. Senators would provide him with the resources he needs to help develop Michigan’s downtowns.

“The Senator’s office has more tools than any other office,” he said. “They have the bully pulpit and ability to reach all over the state” to enact change.

Brimming with optimism, Mr. Carr shared his vision for robust and thriving downtowns filled with businesses the communities would like to see.

“I have been saving projects and making projects out of nothing my whole life,” he said. If communities have a strong vision, he said, investment will follow.

“Have the vision,” he said, “and the next thing we know, we’ll have new towns.”

He intends to meet with the residents first to come up with a project or theme. He would start a campaign to bolster public support. Then as people become excited about the project, he said, the finances improve and business investment will follow after. Redoing Michigan’s downtowns won’t use federal money, he said, as he plans to encourage the people who live in those communities to invest and utilize fundraising programs.

Armed with this same positivity, Mr. Carr is confident that he’ll win the upcoming election. He plans to run his campaign differently than his competitors, focusing on the good he’ll do for the state when in office. He also enjoys speaking to media outlets and wants to talk to his constituents one on one, so much so that he doesn’t have a press secretary.

“The voters need to know what we think,” he said.

As he gears up for the campaign, Mr. Carr intends to share his stories and ideas to get donors and voters excited about his plans for Michigan. And he noted he won’t spend as much money as the other candidates in the race.

He plans to follow the motto he has for every community development project he’s led: “Don’t ask about the money, ask about the goal. We’ll put the plan together first and worry about the money later.”

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