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Trump endorses ‘star’ John James in Michigan Senate primary

July 27, 2018
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In a photo from Monday, July 16, 2018, Republican U.S. Senate candidate John E. James is seen during a campaign stop in Sterling Heights, Mich. Michigan Republicans' uphill bid to grab hold of a U.S. Senate seat for just the second time in 40 years starts with an increasingly testy primary between two Detroit-area businessmen who are trading barbs over Donald Trump and their own business records. James or Sandy Pensler, will advance to face third-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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In a photo from Monday, July 16, 2018, Republican U.S. Senate candidate John E. James is seen during a campaign stop in Sterling Heights, Mich. Michigan Republicans' uphill bid to grab hold of a U.S. Senate seat for just the second time in 40 years starts with an increasingly testy primary between two Detroit-area businessmen who are trading barbs over Donald Trump and their own business records. James or Sandy Pensler, will advance to face third-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed John James in Michigan’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, calling him a “spectacular” candidate with “such great potential.”

The 37-year-old African-American business executive and Iraq War helicopter pilot is running against detergent manufacturer Sandy Pensler in the Aug. 7 contest. The winner will advance to face third-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.

Trump, who narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016, tweeted that James — a political newcomer — is “SPECTACULAR. Rarely have I seen a candidate with such great potential.” He added that James is “strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, our Vets and our Second Amendment. He will be a star.”

Trump’s endorsement gave a big boost to James less than two weeks before the primary. Vice President Mike Pence also backed him on Friday.

“I want to help the president create more economic opportunity, secure our borders and strengthen our national security. From the battlefield to the boardroom, I have the experience to get the job done for Michigan,” James said in a statement.

Both candidates have said they support Trump and have defended his trade and tariff policies, which Detroit-based automakers and other businesses say are hurting them.

James and a super PAC backing him have run TV ads criticizing Pensler for not liking Trump’s “style” and saying that he cannot speak at a “fourth-grade level” like Trump. Pensler has said the remarks were taken “completely” out of context and he was defending the president by complimenting his simple, succinct communication skills.

In a statement Friday, Pensler said he was disappointed that Trump had decided to make an endorsement.

“I have run a campaign strongly in support of the president’s policies of lowering taxes, reducing regulations and protecting our borders,” he said. “My support continues for President Trump and his policies, and I believe Michigan Republican voters will see that I have a greater depth and understanding of the issues and will be a stronger voice for our great state in the U.S. Senate.”

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