Peters to succeed Levin in U.S. Senate

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Senator-elect Gary Peters (D) celebrates after being elected to his first term at the MGM Grand Detroit Tuesday. Buy this photo

By Shoham Geva, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 4, 2014

U.S. House Rep. Gary Peters (D–Detroit) will be the next U.S Senator from Michigan.

Peters, who has served in the U.S House of Representatives for five years, faced off against Terri Lynn Land, former Michigan Secretary of State. The race was called by CNN and the Detroit Free Press at 9 p.m, and as of press time early Wednesday morning with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Peters led Land 55 percent to 41 percent.

Minutes after Peters’ projected win was announced, Land called Peters to concede. She did not release a statement, talk to the press or speak to the Republican watch party in Detroit following her concession.

Peters will succeed fellow Democrat Carl Levin, who has served in the U.S. Senate for more than 35 years. The seat was originally expected to be hotly contested and potentially a key race to determine which party would be the overall majority in the Senate.

However, Peters, who maintained a slight lead in the polls over Land throughout much of the general election season, pulled away from his opponent significantly by the last quarter of the race to a double-digit lead.

“Michigan was obviously a squandered opportunity for the Republicans,” Political Science Prof. Michael Traugott said Tuesday night. “Her campaign got off to a bad start because of the initial interaction with the media, so her campaign team decided to hide her from reporters and restricted her access to voters at public events, so she never really got her message across.”

In remarks to the media Tuesday night, Peters characterized his win as the result of months of traveling the state and building out grassroots efforts.

“I take the job of being a representative very seriously, which means being in the community, being accessible, listening to folks, and I think that paid off today,” he said. “I think they were looking for someone who is out there working to earn the right to represent the people of Michigan in Washington D.C.”

Peters found success running on a platform focused on his record on the economy, climate change and women’s issues. Early in the general election campaign season, he hosted a “Great Lakes Job Tour,” highlighting the role that the state’s businesses played in supporting the Great Lakes and vice versa. Throughout his tenure in Congress, he was also involved in legislation to support small businesses, namely his co-sponsorship of the Small Business Jobs Act, which gave states funding to create lending programs for small businesses and manufacturers, and he called repeatedly during the campaign for an increase to the minimum wage. His campaign also sought to create a distinction between him and Land on pay equity and pro-choice policies, both of which Peters has supported.

“What folks want, I found was all common, regardless of where you are in Michigan,” he told the crowd during his victory speech Tuesday evening. “People want to have a fair wage for a fair day’s work. They want to have quality health care for their families, they want to be able to send their kids to good schools and live in safe neighborhoods. And when it is all said and done, people want be able to retire with dignity. And as Democrats, that is what we have stood for since day one and we will continue to stand for days in the future.”

Support for President Barack Obama and the auto industry bailout also featured prominently into the campaign. While some candidates have sought to distance themselves from Obama and his policies, one prominent one in Michigan being the auto bailout, Peters has not. He was the only Senate candidate to have the president host a rally for him this election season.

In the night’s other big race, Democrats were less successful; incumbent governor Rick Snyder (R) held onto his seat. Peters said, as state representative, he has already worked with Snyder on building a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s a project that I think is vitally important for the state of Michigan, really for the whole country, to increase trade between the U.S and Canada and I’ve worked with Governor Snyder on that, and should he be successful tonight we’ll continue to work together,” Peters told the media on working together with Snyder before the race was called.

He will join U.S Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), now the state's senior senator, in Congress. In replacing Levin, Peters told the media that he would seek to continue expressing the values Levin brought to the job.

“I look forward… to serving in the Senate, building up seniority and doing the hard work necessary for Michigan and that means being a practical, common sense problem solver,” he said. “The thing about Carl Levin, is it’s about doing the job with integrity and thoughtfulness. And I look forward to following his footsteps and doing the same thing.”

Daily Staff Reporter Genevieve Hummer contributed to this report.