With six-term Sen. Carl Levin’s (D–Mich.) retirement, the election for Michigan’s first open seat in the U.S. Senate race in 20 years is underway. In a midterm cycle that could spell the end of Democratic control of the Senate, Rep. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) hopes to keep the seat within his party.
From 2009 to 2013, Peters served Michigan’s 9th Congressional District — made up mostly of suburban Oakland County — and has represented the redrawn 14th district since 2013. Prior to his election to Congress, Peters served for almost five years as the state’s lottery commissioner and was a member of the Michigan State Senate from 1995 to 2002.
Before entering politics, Peters worked as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber for more than 20 years. He also served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1993 to 2005, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. The Pontiac native received his undergraduate degree from Alma College, earned an MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy, a law degree from Wayne State University Law School and a master’s degree in philosophy from Michigan State University.
A recent poll from Public Policy Polling has Peters leading Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land 47 percent to 40 percent. Here is where Peters stands in five policy areas:
Jobs, economy and the deficit
One of Peters’ top priorities in Congress has been to stimulate economic growth by supporting small businesses. In 2010 he co-sponsored the Small Business Jobs Act, which funded state programs that lend to small businesses and manufacturers. He has also emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship and startups in creating jobs and is a co-chair of the House Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Peters hopes to make Michigan “the startup capital of the Midwest” by tapping into the state’s education system, its venture capital community and export infrastructure.
While not particularly vocal about the issue on the campaign trail, Peters has not been shy about the need for deficit reduction, and he has voted against Democratic budget proposals that did not include deficit reduction plans. The federal debt is currently greater than $17 trillion, and the Congressional Budget Office currently projects a $492 billion budget deficit for the 2014 fiscal year.
Campaign aide Zade Alsawah said Peters believes supporting higher education is fundamental to economic growth and job creation.
He has supported curbing the rise of student loan interest rates and “also supports expanding Pell Grants and direct loans as important tools for students,” Alsawah wrote in an e-mail.
Like Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Peters has also supported increased investment in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Climate Change and the Environment
Though outside interest groups have focused significant attention on the controversial piling of petroleum coke in the Detroit River, which they claim negatively impacts heart and lung health, there are other important climate and environmental issues to consider.
“(Peters) believes that climate change poses a real threat to our Great Lakes and agricultural producers, but it also presents a big economic opportunity for Michigan to continue leading in clean energy solutions,” Alsawah wrote. To accomplish this, the congressman supports the expansion of investment and tax credits in clean energy manufacturing and production.
The Peters campaign and its allied support groups have emphasized the wide gap between Land and the congressman on several women’s issues. Peters supports the pro-choice movement and has backed legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s June Hobby Lobby decision, which stated that corporations should not be required to provide insurance that covers the purchase of contraceptives. Peters is also a strong supporter of equal pay for equal work, which has been an emphasis for Democrats across the board this midterm season.
The potential move from the House to the Senate would force Peters to take on a more prominent role in foreign policy formation, as his work in the House has focused largely on financial issues. Based on his experience in the Navy Reserve, Peters views sending American troops to war as “the toughest decision a Member of Congress could make,” Alsawah wrote. Peters opposes deploying ground troops in Iraq, Syria and other areas of conflict. He instead favors using airstrikes as well as equipping and training moderate Arab forces to combat the advance of the Islamic State.