Over the two-year lead up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, six Democratic U.S. senators announced their retirement, including one from Michigan, Sen. Carl Levin (D), a 35-year veteran of the upper chamber.

Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D–Detroit) won the election to succeed him, beating out Republican challenger Terri Lynn Land, former Michigan Secretary of State, to become the next U.S. senator from Michigan. The win was a unique one for Democrats in a night that saw the G.O.P. wrest control of the Senate, securing at least seven new seats, including the seat of every other retiring senator — in some states, results will be determined by a second runoff vote — and a majority in both branches of Congress.

That sweep means that Peters will be entering a significantly different Senate than the one Levin will leave at the end of December. Levin is the current chair of the Armed Services committee, one of the senate’s most powerful and prestigious, and the fourth most senior member overall.

“Now, because the Republicans control the Senate, it’s going to be an entirely different scenario,” said Aaron Kall, director of the University’s Debate Team and expert on election politics, of Peters’ prospects in the Senate.

“It’s a completely different kind of scenario going in as the minority party, and I think (Peters) is certainly going to try to chart his own path, in doing it from a different perspective.”

Levin’s legacy — and ensuring it was continued — was a significant focus throughout the campaign for Democrats. At a rally leading up to the election in October, U.S Rep. Sandy Levin (D–Royal Oak), Carl Levin’s brother, emphasized the importance of keeping the seat Democratic, referencing the fact that Democrats have struggled to turn out voters during the midterm elections.

“You can sum it up this way,” Levin told the crowd. “2016 can wait. And that’s especially true as to who’s going to be the senator. My brother … he’s up North campaigning for this ticket and we owe him gratitude. He never gives up fighting. This is what all of us face — who’s going to carry on his work of 36 years?”

When it comes down to their policies, Sen. Levin and Peters share both similarities and a few notable differences.

Levin made foreign policy a major focus of his tenure, serving on the Armed Services Committee and related committees on intelligence and national security. He has also worked on a variety of economic policy issues: he is a senior member on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and the co-chair of the Senate’s Auto Caucus. He also serves as the co-chair of the Great Lakes Senate Task Force.

Earlier this year, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Michigan) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D–New Hampshire), Levin and Peters introduced a bill to provide more capital for small businesses to grow and expand, reflecting their shared economic focuses on small business.

Peters ran on a platform that also included raising the minimum wage, supporting the Affordable Care Act, pay equity and protecting the environment. Like Levin, he has emphasized the Great Lakes as part of his environmental protection platform, holding a tour at the start of his campaign to talk to local businesses about their relationships with the Lakes.

Throughout the campaign, Peters did not focus on foreign policy, but in a September e-mail interview, Zade Alsawah, deputy communications director for the Peters campaign, said Peters viewed sending troops to war “the toughest decision a Member of Congress could make,” and referenced his 12 years of experience in the U.S Navy Reserve.

However, Kall said due to the nature of the current Senate many of those policies, shared with Levin or not, may not be feasible for Peters, at least for his first few years.

“Once he gets to the Senate, with the new map and the new reality and the Republicans in charge, I think that many of his prominent agenda items are going to have to be scaled back a little bit, and if legislation is passed in Congress, it’ll have to be more conciliatory,” he said.

Several of those issues, minimum wage in particular, did not make it through Congress this legislative session when the Senate was under Democratic control.

While Peters won’t have the seniority and corresponding influence Levin has, he was the only Senate candidate to campaign with the president, standing on the stage with him at a Detroit rally three days before the election. Kall said that choice could give him an advantage in terms of influence from another source.

“As far as the new senators go, he could have the best relationship with the president, because while others were — because of the president’s low approval ratings and sentiment in the country — not willing to embrace the president, he was out front by himself.”

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