Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)

Michigan

Leadership: Democratic Policy & Communications Center Vice Chairman

N/A

stabenow.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 2000, term expires 2018, 3rd term.

Born: April 29, 1950, Gladwin

Home: Lansing

Education: MI St. U., B.A. 1972, M.S.W. 1975

Professional Career: Consultant & co–founder, MI Leadership Inst., 1995–96.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: United Methodist

Family: divorced , 2 children

Democrat Debbie Stabenow, the state’s senior senator, was first elected in 2000 and is top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. She also focuses on job creation, health care, and other issues of concern to working-class families—an emphasis that, combined with a reputation for hard work, has helped her to become an enduring figure in Michigan politics.

Stabenow grew up in the small outstate Michigan town of Clare, where her father was an Oldsmobile dealer and her mother was a nurse. She went to Michigan State University, where she got a master’s degree in social work. She counseled kids in public schools and made extra money singing folk songs in coffeehouses. Young Stabenow also marched in antiwar rallies during the Vietnam War era and volunteered for antiwar presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. Angered when the Ingham County Commission closed a nursing home, she ran for the commission in 1974 and, at age 24, beat an incumbent who referred to her as “that young broad.”

She was elected to the state House in 1978 at age 28 and to the state Senate in 1990. Four years later, while running for governor, she was at the center of a storm in state politics. In response to Republican Gov. John Engler’s call for changes in financing education, she proposed to zero out the property tax and start over, apparently calculating that he would reject such a drastic tax cut. Instead, he accepted her proposal and passed a plan reducing property taxes vastly and increasing the sales tax, which was approved by voters 70%-30% in 1994. In the August primary, the state Democratic establishment opposed Stabenow, including the Michigan Education Association, the UAW and the AFL-CIO. She won 30% of the vote, behind former Rep. Howard Wolpe’s 35%. She was chosen as Wolpe’s running mate, but the ticket lost to Engler, 61%-38%.

Undaunted, Stabenow almost immediately began running for Congress. The 8th Congressional District seat, which included Lansing’s Democratic Ingham County and heavily Republican Livingston County to the east, was held by freshman Republican Dick Chrysler. For the 1996 race, Stabenow raised more than $1 million in individual contributions, and overall, each spent $1.5 million. She won impressively, 54%-44%. In the House, Stabenow had a fairly liberal voting record.

In 2000, she challenged first-term Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, and the contest turned out to be one of the critical Senate races that year. In the summer, Abraham used his money advantage—he ultimately spent $13 million to Stabenow’s nearly $8 million—to run ads spotlighting his own program for prescription drugs for senior citizens and attacking Stabenow as a free-spending liberal favoring increased bureaucracy and higher taxes, opposing welfare reform, and supporting lenient sentences for criminals. Stabenow resisted pressure and hoarded her money for an October ad buy. This proved to be a good strategy. Stabenow was down by 17% in mid-October, but she answered charges that she was a liberal by citing her House votes for a balanced budget and ending the marriage penalty in the tax code. Stabenow said Abraham was beholden to corporations and special interests. It was the most expensive Senate race in Michigan history, and the first since 1942 in which neither candidate won a majority of the vote. Stabenow won 49%-48%, though she carried only 13 of the state’s 83 counties.

Stabenow has been among the most loyal of Democrats, especially on economic and social issues. She introduced a relatively modest bill to discourage U.S. companies from hiring overseas, but it fell victim to election-year political squabbling and could not overcome a Republican filibuster in July 2012. She strongly supported loan guarantees for the Detroit Three automakers and the government acquisition of General Motors and Chrysler. She has worked to get the automakers to become more technologically advanced, developing a program to authorize loans to re-equip and expand factories to produce advanced technology vehicles and components. And she worked on a proposal that led to the Energy Department announcing two new advanced battery research facilities in Michigan in November 2012 as part of a five-year partnership with private companies.

When the Senate passed the “Cash for Clunkers” program providing government reimbursements for trading in old cars for more fuel-efficient models in 2009, Stabenow successfully fended off a proposal by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California for higher mileage standards, and she pushed to transfer $2 billion of economic stimulus funds into the clunkers program. In October 2010, the Senate passed Stabenow’s small business bill with a $30 billion lending fund that she said could generate a $300 billion pool of capital. With Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, Stabenow in January 2010 sponsored a bill to close the Chicago area locks and dams to prevent the invasive Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes. Later that year, she called for poisoning the carp in Chicago’s Lake Calumet, where they were breeding in great numbers. She described the carp in 2011 to Detroit’s Metro Times as “the fish that keeps me up at night.”

She took over the Agriculture Committee in early 2011, after Iowa’s Tom Harkin left the post to chair the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Her immediate task was the reauthorization of agriculture and nutrition programs known as the farm bill. Traditionally, farm bills have favored crops such as corn and wheat that receive big subsidies of various kinds. But Michigan mostly produces so-called specialty crops like cherries, blueberries, and apples. The bill that she steered to passage to Senate in June saved $23 billion over 10 years by cutting several farm subsidies and nutrition programs. Pointing to the savings, Stabenow said repeatedly, “This is not your father’s farm bill.” The bill also eliminated $5 billion in “direct payments” that are given to farmers or landowners whether or not they grow crops, a move that angered Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss and other Southern lawmakers. House members, meanwhile, clamored for even deeper cuts, and in the ensuing stalemate, the 2008 farm bill was extended for a year. Stabenow vowed to make another run at a longer-term bill in 2013, saying that she would seek to appease House demands for savings in the food stamp, but that she was unwilling to cut benefit levels.

When she was first elected, Senate Democrats made Stabenow head of a task force on prescription drugs, then among the country’s hottest issues, to help her strengthen her grip on the seat. She organized bus trips of seniors to Canada and pressed for measures allowing the importation of U.S. drugs from that country. Stabenow won passage of an amendment in 2004 for $2 billion in corporate tax cuts for manufacturers who create jobs in the United States. Stabenow was a leading foe of the President George W. Bush’s international trade agenda, insisting on protections for American workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. She also cosponsored a proposal to make it easier for U.S. manufacturers to show currency manipulation by other nations, a measure directed at China.

On other issues, Stabenow emerged as a player on climate change legislation in 2009 when she proposed a program to allow polluters to offset some carbon emissions by paying farmers to take steps such as letting fields go fallow or planting trees that would absorb an equal amount of carbon. Stabenow and fellow Michigan Sen. Carl Levin announced an agreement in 2006 with Ontario’s Environment Minister to end the shipment of municipal garbage from Toronto and three other municipalities by the end of 2010.

Late in her first term, Stabenow decided to try to get a toehold in leadership. In November 2004, when Barbara Mikulski stepped down as secretary of the Democratic caucus, Stabenow called Mikulski to ask for her support, and the two worked the phones. Stabenow got the job, the No. 4 position in the Senate Democratic leadership. It gave her a voice at leadership meetings, though her performance was limited. Other senior Senate Democrats quietly discussed replacing her after the 2006 election. Ultimately, they reached an agreement: Stabenow got a seat on the Finance Committee and became chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, while Washington Sen. Patty Murray became caucus secretary. In the 112th Congress (2011-12), Stabenow returned to the leadership as vice chair of the Democratic Policy Committee.

Stabenow has a warm, personable demeanor and is often underestimated for her political toughness. “For nearly four decades, Republicans have sneered at Debbie Stabenow … then she beats them, every time,” Metro Times columnist Jack Lessenberry wrote in 2012. When she first came up for reelection in 2006, Republicans were unable to recruit House members Candice Miller and Mike Rogers to run against her, and her opponent was Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. With the national Democratic wind at her back and plenty of financial help from liberal interest groups, Stabenow won easily, 57%-41%.

In 2012, she drew a higher-profile opponent in former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a former House Intelligence Committee chairman who had made an unsuccessful stab at Michigan’s governorship two years earlier. The conservative Hoekstra decided to go big, running an ad during the Super Bowl in February that featured an Asian woman bicycling through a rice paddy and thanking “Sen. Debbie Spend-It-Now” in broken English for sending U.S. jobs to China. The spot caused an uproar, but not in the way Hoekstra intended. Republicans and Democrats alike attacked him for playing on racial stereotypes; Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye declared, “His racist thoughts are not welcome in the United States Senate.” Even the actress in the ad apologized. Hoekstra never recovered, and Stabenow piled up more than $14 million to his $5.8 million. With help once again from a Democratic trend that led President Barack Obama to beat Mitt Romney in Romney’s home state, Stabenow bettered her 2006 performance, winning with 59%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4822

(202) 228-0325

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 731
Washington, DC 20510-2204

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4822

(202) 228-0325

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 731
Washington, DC 20510-2204

DISTRICT OFFICE

(517) 203-1760

(517) 203-1778

221 West Lake Lansing Road Suite 100
East Lansing, MI 48823-8661

DISTRICT OFFICE

(517) 203-1760

(517) 203-1778

221 West Lake Lansing Road Suite 100
East Lansing, MI 48823-8661

DISTRICT OFFICE

(313) 961-4330

(313) 961-7566

719 Griswold Street Suite 700
Detroit, MI 48226-3248

DISTRICT OFFICE

(313) 961-4330

(313) 961-7566

719 Griswold Street Suite 700
Detroit, MI 48226-3248

DISTRICT OFFICE

(810) 720-4172

(810) 720-4178

432 North Saginaw Street Suite 301
Flint, MI 48502

DISTRICT OFFICE

(810) 720-4172

(810) 720-4178

432 North Saginaw Street Suite 301
Flint, MI 48502

DISTRICT OFFICE

(616) 975-0052

(616) 975-5764

3280 East Beltline Court, NE Suite 400
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

DISTRICT OFFICE

(616) 975-0052

(616) 975-5764

3280 East Beltline Court, NE Suite 400
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

DISTRICT OFFICE

(906) 228-8756

(906) 228-9162

1901 West Ridge Street Suite 7
Marquette, MI 49855-3198

DISTRICT OFFICE

(906) 228-8756

(906) 228-9162

1901 West Ridge Street Suite 7
Marquette, MI 49855-3198

DISTRICT OFFICE

(231) 929-1031

(231) 929-1250

3335 South Airport Road West Suite 6B
Traverse City, MI 49684-7928

DISTRICT OFFICE

(231) 929-1031

(231) 929-1250

3335 South Airport Road West Suite 6B
Traverse City, MI 49684-7928

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Arts

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Banking

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Budget

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Alex Graf
Legislative Assistant

Campaign

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Census

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Consumers

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Education

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Alex Graf
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Aaron Suntag
Legislative Assistant

Krystal Lattany
Legislative Aide

Environment

Aaron Suntag
Legislative Assistant

Krystal Lattany
Legislative Aide

Family

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Foreign

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Gambling

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Govt Ops

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Gun Issues

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Health

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Sam Schuiteman
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Housing

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Human Rights

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Immigration

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Insurance

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Intelligence

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Labor

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Land Use

Aaron Suntag
Legislative Assistant

Krystal Lattany
Legislative Aide

Medicare

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Sam Schuiteman
Legislative Aide

Military

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Native Americans

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Public Works

Aaron Suntag
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Jason LaGosh
Legislative Counsel

Science

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Seniors

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Social Security

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Tax

Sarah Shive
Legislative Assistant

Yasmin Rigney
Legislative Aide

Technology

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Alex Graf
Legislative Assistant

Trade

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Krystal Lattany
Legislative Aide

Kristen Lee
Legislative Aide

Transportation

Aaron Suntag
Legislative Assistant

Krystal Lattany
Legislative Aide

Anna Platt
Legislative Aide

Veterans

Emily Carwell
Legislative Assistant

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Kimberly Corbin
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Debbie Stabenow
Votes: 2,735,826
Percent: 58.8%
Pete Hoekstra
Votes: 1,767,386
Percent: 37.99%
2012 PRIMARY
Debbie Stabenow
Unopposed
2006 GENERAL
Debbie Stabenow
Votes: 2,151,278
Percent: 57.0%
Mike Bouchard
Votes: 1,559,597
Percent: 41.0%
2006 PRIMARY
Debbie Stabenow
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2006 (57%), 2000 (49%); House: 1998 (57%), 1996 (54%)

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