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Stabenow retains U.S. Senate seat, barely, in tight race with John James

(WWMT/MGN Online)

Leading a long list of women on the Michigan ballot Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow retained the seat she has held since 2002 – but just barely.

As returns rolled in through the night, Stabenow and Republican challenger John James were within a few hundred votes of each other, and changed leadership positions throughout the night. The Associated Press called the race for Stabenow just after 11 p.m. And about the same time, John James conceded.

In unofficial vote totals as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, with 72 percent of the precincts reporting, Stabenow had 52 percent of the vote and James had 46 percent. Green Party candidate Marcia Squier had 1 percent of the vote. Independent George Huffman III also had 1 percent, and independent John Wilhelm had less than a percentage of the vote totals.

Stabenow, who is in her third Senate term, and James, a 37-year-old Detroit businessman and Iraq War veteran, canvassed the state heavily in the weeks before Tuesday’s mid-term elections.

As the final four Michigan counties closed their polls at 9 p.m. EST (8 p.m. Central Time), and with 3 percent of the precincts reporting, the two top candidates each had 49 percent of the vote.

James, of Farmington Hills, is a newcomer to elected service. However, his military experience, as a combat pilot in Operation Iraqi Freedom, apparently played a key factor in his campaign.

“When I was in Iraq I didn’t fight for Democrats or Republicans, I fought for Americans,” James said early in the campaign. “In my business, I don’t serve liberals or conservatives, I serve my customers. I’m looking forward to bringing that same dedication of service to Washington.”

Yet he was a fan of the White House.

James had Vice President Mike Pence come to Michigan multiple times on behalf of his campaign. Donald Trump Jr. held a rally for James, and Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, held an event as well. Being a Trump-backer did raise some questions, but James said publicly that he would stand up to the president whenever necessary.

The race had become increasingly competitive in the final weeks before the election, evidenced by the candidates’ fundraising.

Stabenow’s war chest, $3 million cash on hand in mid-October, outpaced James’ $2.7 million. However, James’ campaign raised $3.6 million in the last three months of the campaign, about double what Stabenow took in during the same period.

Stabenow was first elected in 2000 after defeating the incumbent senator. She now serves with another Democratic senator and said she has the experience and relationships in Washington to continue serving Michigan.

“I don’t believe we have an economy unless somebody makes something and somebody grows something,” Stabenow said during the campaign.

Before her election to the Senate, Stabenow served in the U.S. House of Representatives, for Michigan's 8th District. Previously she served on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners and in the Michigan State Legislature.

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