Republican Lena Epstein, co-chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Michigan and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, announced Monday she is running for the U.S. Senate in 2018.
In a statement, Epstein wrote she will directly challenge current U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who she believes has not done enough for Michigan residents.
“I will take the fight directly to Debbie Stabenow because she has failed the people of Michigan after almost two decades in Washington with no major accomplishments,” she wrote. “Twenty years of nothing is more than enough. Michigan deserves better.”
Epstein further explained, according to the Detroit Free Press, she hopes to unify the state under President Trump, whose approval rating currently sits at 38 percent, according to Gallup Daily.
“One of my goals is to be a unifying voice,” she said. “I am unapologetic in my support for the President.”
In a message to the Daily LSA senior Rowan Conybeare, the chair of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, offered an opposing view
“College Democrats at the University of Michigan stands with Senator Stabenow, and will do all we can to support her campaign for reelection,” she wrote.
In a statement, Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon said he does not believe the people of Michigan will support Epstein due to her ties to the Trump administration, which has threatened to cut funding for protection initiatives in the Great Lakes, as well as increase healthcare costs.
“I don’t think Michigan will embrace another voice supporting devastating cuts to Great Lakes protections and massive increases in health care and prescription drug costs for Michigan families,” he said.
Epstein has never run for political office and is fairly unknown within the GOP. She is currently the manager of her family business, Vesco Oil Corporation, a Southfield-based distributor of industrial and automotive lubricants which generates over $175 million in revenue per year.
Appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board in 2012, Epstein also serves on the board of the Detroit Historical Society, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and numerous Jewish community organizations.
She holds a degree in economics from Harvard University, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University’s School of Business.
In a message to the Daily, LSA junior Amanda Delekta, who is the vice president of internal affairs for the University chapter of College Republicans, said she is happy about the candidacy, emphaszing the importance of economic issues in Michigan politics.
“I am thrilled by Lena Epstein’s candidacy for Congress,” she wrote. “In recent elections, both at the state and federal level, Michigan voters have showed how important economic issues are to them. I think that Ms. Epstein’s business experience is what Michigan voters are looking for to keep Michigan’s economy thriving.”
Republican students such as LSA junior John Sack feel “hesitant” to support such a vocal advocate for the current president.
“Looking into her profile, although she seems like a strong conservative, I’m personally a member of the Republican Party who actively opposed Trump and a large part of her agenda, so I am hesitant to jump on board,” he said.
However, he added that if Epstein can ground her policies in classic conservative ideals, her background as a businesswoman will aid her in a state where the majority voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
“But, if she can anchor herself in strong, common sense conservative ideals, then I think her position as a political outsider and as a businesswoman can give her success in her race against Stabenow, especially given that Trump won the state,” he said. “However, I think Stabenow has the leg up in the beginning, especially seeing now how low Trump’s approval ratings are. It’ll be especially interesting how they handle Trump’s policies toward Michigan, from NAFTA to the cleaning of the Great Lakes. I’m excited to see how the race shakes out, but I haven’t picked a favorite yet.”