Michigan’s Stabenow and James clash in final Senate debate
DETROIT (AP) — Republican John James on Monday urged people to vote “for the person, not the party” and said he would both stand with and against President Donald Trump as necessary, while Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow touted her bipartisanship and said now is not the time to send a political rookie like her opponent to Washington.
The two met for a second, final debate just a day after clashing in their first one .
The third-term senator accused James, a combat veteran and executive in his family’s automotive supply chain business, of not providing “specific solutions” despite repeatedly criticizing her for problems such as the $21 trillion U.S. debt.
“Frankly, in these times, I believe this is a time for experience. This is not a time for inexperience when it is so difficult to be able to move through things and get thing done,” Stabenow told a crowd at the Detroit Economic Club, citing her work on policy like the recent funding authorization for a long-sought shipping lock on the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Superior.
She again noted James’ past statement that he was with Trump “2,000 percent,” and she said she helped oppose the president’s push to kill federal support for cleaning up the Great Lakes.
James said Stabenow has been in elective office for 43 years, has toed the party line and has watched the roads crumble, the Great Lakes deteriorate and Canadian trash continue to be shipped into Michigan.
“I’m an independent thinker,” he said, also calling himself a conservative and contending that Michigan needs “balance” in Washington instead of two Democratic senators. “I will work with the president when it benefits Michigan and I will stand up to the president when it benefits Michigan. Vote for the person, not the party. And do not judge me by the R by my name, but the content of my character.”
Stabenow has led comfortably in polls, but James — who would become the state’s first-ever black senator — is hoping for a late surge after starting to run TV ads this month and posting strong fundraising numbers.
In response to a question about the national debt, the candidates sparred over entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Stabenow accused James of wanting to make the benefits subject to the “whims” of the annual budget process and said her 92-year-old mother is counting on them.
“It’s ongoing funding. It’s called mandatory funding. I absolutely reject the idea that that should be part of the yearly budget,” she said.
James countered that he wants to secure Social Security not only for today’s seniors, but younger generations.
“I’m looking forward to delivering and making sure that we have tough conversations and do the right thing the right way because the way we’re trending, we are going to find ourselves in another crisis, and that is unacceptable,” he said.
The candidates also were odds over Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
James echoed his previous statement that he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh despite the sexual misconduct allegations against him, saying he will be a fair and impartial justice who has hired female clerks and, previously, two of the three African-American clerks who now work at the high court. He decried the “political wrangling” over his nomination.
“We just want a political system that works and won’t embarrass us. That’s a very low standard,” he said, saying he could bring people together as a senator because he did so in the military.
Stabenow, who voted against Kavanagh’s confirmation, said she first opposed him when he was nominated to a federal appellate court. She criticized James for taking just nine minutes to back Kavanaugh after Trump made the announcement.
She reiterated concerns that she expressed previously about Kavanaugh’s past decisions on health care and the environment. She also criticized his “out-of-the-mainstream” positions regarding presidential power — a reference to a dissenting ruling in which he suggested that a president could decline to enforce a statute regulating private individuals if the president deems it unconstitutional, even if a court determines it to be constitutional.
“We don’t have that in our country. They may have it in Syria and Russia and other parts of the world — not in America,” Stabenow said.