Hoekstra flip-flops, will run for Senate after all

From WOOD TV8 comes news that Congressman-turned-lobbyist, 2010 gubernatorial candidate, Twitter aficionado, and breacher of security Pete Hoekstra has flip-flopped on running for US Senate against Debbie Stabenow.

The Associated Press has learned that former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra plans to run for the seat held by Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Two Republicans with knowledge of his decision say the Holland Republican has changed his mind about staying out of the race and plans an announcement soon.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public.


Earlier this year, Hoekstra became a senior adviser at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a law and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

Hoekstra would enter the race as the most viable of the Republican candidates - and almost certainly the initial frontrunner in the Republican primary - thanks in part to his 18 years in Congress and his unsuccessful 2010 bid for Governor, in which he finished second behind Rick Snyder.

However, will Hoekstra get through the Republican Senate primary? Will tea partiers accept someone who voted to raise the debt limit on five different occasions during the Bush era? Or will he suffer the same fate as Rob Simmons, Mike Castle, Scott McInnis, and other Republicans who got teabagged in their Senate runs in 2010?

Oh, and will he get Right to Life's endorsement? He blamed his 2010 loss on Right to Life, which endorsed then-Attorney General Mike Cox instead of Hoekstra - likely helping to split the teabagger vote and enabling the relatively 'moderate' Snyder to win with 37% of the vote. (Seems odd to think Snyder was/is believed to be relatively moderate, but that's today's Republican Party.) In Michigan, ticking off Right to Life is the Republican equivalent of a Democrat ticking off labor - not a good idea, to say the least.

For now - ten months before the filing deadline and more than a year before the primary - Hoekstra is the fourth Republican to enter the race, the other three being Oakland County Drain Commissioner John McCulloch, former probate judge Randy Hekman, and businessman Peter Konetchy. Of those three, I had only previously heard of McCulloch - and I've been following politics closely for 11 years. I wouldn't be surprised to see one, two, or all three of them bow out with Hoekstra now in the race - but then again, as I alluded to earlier, Hoekstra's ripe for a tea party challenge, and it's possible one of those three (or someone else) could jump in.

Democrats have a lot that we can hang around Hoekstra's neck. First is the obvious - he decided not to run, then he decided to run, raising questions about his ability to make a decision and stick to it. He also has 18 years of Congressional votes to answer for, many of which indicate how out-of-touch he is, while others (such as the aforementioned debt limit increases) could show hypocrisy on his part (provided he opposes raising the debt ceiling - which he will probably have to if he wants to win the Republican primary).

Of course, Stabenow also has a lot going FOR her. For one thing, Michigan leans Democratic. Yes, we had a really rough time of it here in 2010, primarily owing to appallingly low turnout - but 2012 should see better turnout with a Presidential race at the top of the ticket. In addition, Democrats have won 11 of the last 12 US Senate races in Michigan.

Michigan's first female Senator, Stabenow was one of the first three women to defeat incumbent US Senators (along with Carol Moseley Braun in the 1992 Democratic primary and Maria Cantwell, also in the 2000 general election). She served four years on the Ingham County Commission, twelve in the state House, four in the state Senate, and four in the US House before upsetting Spence Abraham in 2000. She was the first woman to preside over the State House, so she's quite the trailblazer when it comes to women in Michigan politics.

While Carl Levin has done so much in the areas of US foreign policy and defense, Stabenow, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been a tireless, 'behind-the-scenes' leader among Senate Democrats when it comes to domestic policy, particularly regarding healthcare and the environment. Stabenow has also done a lot to help reduce the inflow of Canadian trash into Michigan. Drilling for oil in the Great Lakes? That's illegal thanks to a law Stabenow sponsored.

Stabenow is used to facing close election contests - and winning. She was elected to the House by 25,000 votes and the US Senate by 43,000 votes, both times beating Republican incumbents. She has $4 million in the bank for 2012 - which puts her at a solid advantage.

Countless Republicans - including all of Michigan's current congressional delegation - had decided against challenging her, and until yesterday, Stabenow was drawing rather weak opposition. My feeling is that they'd rather sit out 2012 and wait until 2014, when Carl Levin (then 80 years old and finishing his 6th term) would likely retire (he was expected to retire in 2008 but decided instead to run).

Now comes a more formidable challenger for Stabenow - one with name recognition and a lot of respect within establishment Republican circles. But is it too little, too late? Would the people of Michigan really turn down a trailblazing incumbent they've twice supported in favor of a controversial lawmaker-turned-lobbyist?

Whatever the case, it's gonna be a tough challenge for Hoekstra to get elected to the Senate in a Presidential year in Democratic-leaning Michigan. But anything is possible, so stay tuned.

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