The Focus Shifts to Michigan

In the aftermath of Ted Cruz’s impressive victory in the Texas Senate primary on Tuesday, many conservatives are shifting their attention to the Wolverine state where another battle is brewing between the Tea Party and the establishment. Indeed, Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary there featuring former congressman Pete Hoekstra and attorney and philanthropist Clark Durant is starting to receive national attention. 

Hoekstra, who represented Michigan in Congress between 1993 and 2011 has the endorsement of Governor Rick Snyder and much of the Republican party establishment. In fairness, Hoekstra has decent conservative credentials. As a U.S congressman, his lifetime American Conservative Union Score was 91. Hoekstra has also been endorsed by both Rick Santorum and Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

However, many conservatives see something unique in Durant’s candidacy. Durant is well-known in philanthropic circles for serving as the co-founder and CEO of Detroit’s Cornerstone schools which have provided a low-cost, quality education to thousands of children in the Detroit metro area. Durant also served as the vice president of Hillsdale College and worked in the Reagan administration as chairman of the Legal Services Corporation. Durant has been endorsed by a number of conservative heavyweights including Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.), former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, and Steve Forbes. Today, the Tea Party Express is also going to announce their support for Durant’s campaign.

Durant has trailed in the polls for most of the summer but has been making progress lately. In fact, Durant’s campaign recently got a boost when Gary Glenn who is the president of the American Family Association — Michigan dropped out of the Senate race and endorsed Durant.  Furthermore, the fact that Pete Hoekstra has agreed to a televised debate this evening likely confirms what many are speculating — that internal polls are showing the race to be closer than the polls conducted by various media outlets.

With Senator Debbie Stabenow’s approval ratings in the 40s and Mitt Romney polling well in Michigan, this Michigan Senate seat could well be in play in November. This election cycle, the Tea Party has wielded considerable influence in Republican Senate primaries in Nebraska, Indiana, and most recently Texas. In the end, Michigan Republicans may feel that a tea-party candidate like Durant has a better chance than Representative Hoekstra of defeating Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.

Michael J. New — Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. He received a ...

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