DETROIT (AP) — Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan looked Tuesday to translate a fundraising and airtime advantage into a third term in the U.S. Senate against challenger and former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra.
Stabenow ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and raised more than twice as much money as the former nine-term congressman by mid-summer, enabling her to lock up valuable air time for fall television advertising while Hoekstra battled charter schools founder Clark Durant for the GOP nomination.
Her advantage on the air waves became crucial when the two campaigns failed to agree on arrangements for televised debates. Stabenow insisted on two debates that would be shown on public television, while Hoekstra argued for as many as six that would run on network TV. The campaigns pointed fingers at each other when negotiations broke down.
After drawing criticism with a pre-Super Bowl commercial that featured a young Asian woman talking in broken English about China taking away American jobs, which even some Republicans said was racially insensitive, Hoekstra tried to gain traction with a series of Web ads labeling Stabenow "the worst senator."
The ads accused Stabenow of supporting higher taxes and blamed her for Michigan job losses. Hoekstra sought to link Stabenow to President Barack Obama in hopes of capitalizing on voter frustration with the economy, labeling her the "follower-in-chief."
Stabenow didn't run from the president, trumpeting his administration's financial assistance that helped the auto industry stave off bankruptcy.
Stabenow, who grew up in Clare, portrayed herself as a moderate bipartisan and focused on her role as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She won Senate approval of a five-year food and farm bill with a provision making growers of specialty crops such as Michigan cherries eligible for federal crop insurance. The Michigan Farm Bureau, which usually leans toward the GOP, gave her a prized endorsement.
Hoekstra, of Holland, questioned her cooperation and leadership abilities after the bill got hung up in the Republican-controlled House.
Hoekstra turned his sights on the Senate after running unsuccessfully for governor in 2010. He won the primary in a landslide after successfully parrying claims by Durant, who had tea party backing, that he was too moderate. But he faced a different challenge for the general election, needing support from beyond the conservative Republican base.
The candidates also sparred over Medicare, with Stabenow accusing Hoekstra of supporting a budget plan offered by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that would turn the federal health program for seniors into a voucher system.
Hoekstra said Stabenow had voted to cut Medicare by supporting Obama's health care plan, which reduced Medicare payments to health providers.