ELECTION 2020: The race for Michigan’s US Senate seat

We need a patientcentered market-based approach which provides affordable, quality health care and must protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Oakland County voters will see two major party candidates, and veterans, on their ballot under the race for U.S. Senate.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is seeking re-election against Republican challenger John James. Both did not have a primary election opponent.

Peters, a Bloomfield Township resident, is seeking his second term in the having been first elected in 2014. Prior to serving in the Senate, he served three terms (2009-2014) in the U.S. House representing Michigan’s 9th and 14th Congressional Districts. He has also spent 22 years as an investment advisor, five years as commissioner of the Michigan Lottery (2003-2007) and six years in the Michigan Senate (1995-2002).

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He also served 15 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve (1993-2008), attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He currently serves on four Senate committees including the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Joint Economic Committee, Committee on Commerce, Science, Transportation, and the Committee on Armed Services.

Gary Peters

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township)

James, a Farmington Hills resident, graduated from U.S. Military Academy at West Point before and served in U.S. Army from 2004-2012, which included multiple tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was an Apache pilot. He’s the current president and CEO of Southfield-based James Group International, a global provider of logistics support for Fortune 500 companies.

In 2018, James ran for U.S. Senate against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but lost by 6.5 percentage points in the general election.

According to The Associated Press, Simon Schuster, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said overall spending — by the campaigns and outside organizations — is likely to exceed $100 million.

John James-2020

John James

The Oakland Press reached out to each candidate with questions pertaining to their candidacy. Responses to those questions are detailed below.

To access coverage for additional federal and Oakland County election races, visit www.theoaklandpress.com/news/elections/. The presidential general election is being held on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

OP: What are the main reasons as to why you want to be elected to a six-year term as U.S. Senator? What is your platform?

Peters: Service has always been part of my DNA. I served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve, and volunteered to serve again after 9/11. I’m running for Senate to put Michigan families first and deliver results on the issues that matter to our state, like protecting and expanding access to affordable health care and safeguarding protections for those with pre-existing conditions; lowering the costs of prescription drugs; expanding training programs so everyone has the skills needed for a good-paying job; and protecting the Great Lakes and our drinking water.

James: I was raised to do three things: work hard, serve others and think for yourself. I went to West Point, Army Ranger School and then onto war before coming home to work in the family business. I was motivated to run for office for the same reason I joined the Army: I have always loved serving this country and its people. It isn’t enough to just do well for yourself, you have to do good for your community. Faith and family. God and country. Service before self. We need more political leaders who not only believe in family, faith, God and country, but will also do the hard work to create unity, compassion, and the courage to do what is right. I have been touring the state using my Prosperity Agenda that focuses on education and entrepreneurship, public health, working families and infrastructure as a basis to speak with Michiganders from our urban communities to our rural towns to build a coordinated list of action items to enable all Michiganders to build a better life for themselves and their families. We live in the greatest country on Earth. We need to make sure every Michigander who wants to work for it can be on the path to Prosperity.

OP: What are your greatest strengths? How will these strengths help you if elected?

Peters: I’ve made it my top priority to work across the aisle to get results and make government work for Michigan. In fact, I’ve passed more standalone bills through the U.S. Senate than any other Senator over the last two years, either Democrat or Republican. That’s why nonpartisan groups like the Center for Effective Lawmaking and the McCourt School of Public Policy have ranked me as one of the most effective and bipartisan members of the Senate, and I’m proud to have received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship.

James: I have real-world experience. My entire life has been dedicated to leading others to a successful outcome, whether it’s making sure the troops in my platoons completed their mission without harm, or the employees in my company continued to receive a paycheck and quality health care both before and during a global pandemic. Michigan needs somebody in the Senate who has not only the knowledge and experience, but the passion to get this thing done. Somebody who pairs experience with nonpartisan solutions, both in the military and in business. The right motivation, coupled with my experience getting results in the toughest environments –from business to the battlefield—is the leadership Michigan needs to both fix the failures of the past and while overcoming the challenges to putting every Michigander back on the path to prosperity in the future.

OP: Do you support a Senate vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination prior to Election Day? If so, why?

Peters: The Supreme Court’s rulings have a profound impact on the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders and all Americans. Soon it will hear the lawsuit pushed by the Trump Administration to end health protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This could return us to the days when insurance companies called the shots on health care for Michiganders—when getting sick or having cancer could result in losing health care or facing financial ruin; women could be charged more for care; people could lose coverage for hitting an annual or lifetime limit; and seniors could be charged more for prescription drugs. From health care to women’s reproductive rights to whether workers have a level playing field against corporate special interests, there could not be more at stake. Michiganders have already started voting and with Election Day so close — they deserve to have a say in who nominates and confirms the next Supreme Court justice. As I have said before, I do not support the Senate moving forward on a Supreme Court nomination until after Inauguration Day. I will vote against confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime appointment on our nation’s highest court.

James: We must put the partisanship aside and move this country forward, while abiding by the Constitutional process. I would support a Senate vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination because it’s my Constitutional duty. I swore an oath to the United States Constitution, not to any person, or any party. I would evaluate each candidate objectively, based upon their merit and their ability to interpret the Constitution as written. My only litmus test is someone who will interpret the Constitution and will not try to legislate from the bench, but will be a dispassionate, impartial associate Justice.

OP: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing The United States right now and how would you help to remedy and combat those issues?

Peters: First and foremost, I am focused on continuing to address our public health and economic crises, and getting Michiganders the relief and resources we need to get through it — that has to be our main priority. I’m running for reelection because there’s more work to be done to get Michigan back on the road to recovery. As we continue to work through this historic pandemic, I know that together we can solve the tough problems and challenges ahead of us.

James: Our first challenge is partisanship—re-electing the same career politicians won’t get us out of this mess. We need leaders who are proven unifiers because partisanship is tearing the Nation apart. After that, Americans are hurting and scared right now. Whether it’s concern for their health well-being, concern about inequality, or simply hopelessness associated with financial anxiety and socio-economic immobility, Americans are desperately seeking wise and compassionate leadership. We need real unity in Michigan and this nation. As malign forces, foreign and domestic, seek to destroy us, we need tested leadership to address the root causes of our persistent challenges with a future focus on a brighter future for America. We must clearly identify both our real enemy and our common purpose – and pursue them both with abandon. I have been a leader and a unifier for my entire life and I will continue to be for the rest of it. But nothing will happen until we fix the partisanship that divides Washington.

OP: What unique challenges has the COVID-19 pandemic created for The United States? How would you help to remedy and combat those challenges?

Peters: I fought to provide Michigan with relief and resources they need in this pandemic including free testing, support for small businesses, expanded unemployment benefits, and funding for hospitals. I’ll continue to work across bipartisan lines for additional relief and to deliver results for Michigan.

James: On the economic front, COVID-19 has significantly hurt businesses and families. Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders are unemployed. Stimulus funds are a short-term fix. For sustained, long-term growth, eliminating barriers for entrepreneurs who want to create jobs in their community is the first step necessary to restarting Michigan’s economy. We must expand economic opportunity for all by increasing access to good paying jobs and by investing in our small businesses and innovators. During and after the recovery, we must focus on prevention and preparedness for the next crisis, with a particular emphasis on making sure our country is able to produce and maintain our manufacturing, stockpiles, labor and supply chains for essential drugs, healthcare equipment, energy and food. These are heavy growth industries with lots of potential to bring jobs to Michigan. In addition to the economy, the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis has demonstrated very clearly that the supply chains for many important drugs and vital medical equipment do not prioritize the best interests of American patients and doctors. All in all, our strategy must be to return the power to patients and doctors, not partisan politicians. We need a patient-centered market-based approach which provides affordable, quality health care and must protect people with pre-existing conditions.

OP: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your view and outlook on the responsibilities and duties of those who are elected to serve in our Democracy?

Peters: As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I was sounding the alarm about our medical supply chain and pandemic response before the pandemic–and was pushing for a national strategy early on–but our federal government needed to be doing more. The pandemic has revealed how vulnerable we are to supply chain disruptions, which is why I’ve proposed creating a National Institute of Manufacturing to create a national manufacturing strategy to help boost manufacturing in Michigan and around the country. This would help bring back our supply chains from China and create more good-paying jobs at home. Additionally, I introduced and passed into law the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which expanded unemployment benefits to include workers who usually don’t qualify, such as self-employed workers like small business owners, freelance and gig workers, independent contractors, and seasonal workers. I also fought for a better deal for Michigan by expanding unemployment by an additional $600 per week and extending the amount of time people can receive benefits from 3 to 4 months, and secured $147 billion more in funding for small businesses via the CARES Act and other relief legislation, including $60 billion in targeted relief to minority and community lenders. More broadly, I’ve always fought to support small businesses and expand skills training programs. That’s why I’ve been an advocate for the Minority Business Development Agency, and helped pass the Small Business Jobs Act to boost small businesses. It’s also never been more critical that Michiganders have access to quality, affordable health care. That’s why I’ve worked to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and oppose the GOP-led lawsuit to overturn it in the Supreme Court which would gut protections for pre-existing conditions for over 1.7 million Michiganders and raise health care costs. I’ve also fought to ensure Medicare and Medicaid are fully funded, and worked to bring down the cost of prescription drugs by passing legislation to fight big pharmaceutical companies’ from monopolizing the lower cost, generic drug market

James: The pandemic has proven why we need more business owners and fewer career politicians in the U.S. Senate. Congress needs to do more to provide relief to those areas who need it the most. Black business owners struggled to access PPP funds and many Michigan small business owners simply gave up trying because the process was too long and too confusing. Testing supplies and PPE must be increased. Stimulus funds are a short-term fix, but we need long-term solutions. Michigan’s representation on the Senate HSAG Committee failed to properly oversee the federal response. By having more representatives with business experience, knowing what it’s like to take care of their employees and keep them on their healthcare even through a pandemic, we can combat many of these issues and understand the needs of the business owners, health care workers, and all Americans who are struggling right now.