In Michigan, Democratic women are rising. Now some are weighing a Senate run.
When Democrat Debbie Stabenow began her political career in 1974, fewer women were running for office. In a recent interview, she recalled hearing that her male opponent in that first race had dismissively referred to her as “that young broad.”
Nearly half a century later, Stabenow, who won that county election and went on to become the first woman to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate, is retiring from Congress. Her decision has set off a scramble for her seat in a state where Democratic women have become a dominant political force, propelled by a new generation of officeholders.
Several prominent Democratic women are now deciding whether to run for the seat in 2024. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D), 46, is moving swiftly toward a run, calling party leaders across the state to tout her victories in hard-fought House races as evidence of her ability to win statewide, according to half a dozen Democrats with knowledge of her activities. These Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, said they expect her to announce her candidacy in the near future. Slotkin has said publicly that she’s “seriously considering it.”
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, 45, who became the face of Michigan’s defense against then-President Trump’s false claims in 2020 that the presidency had been stolen from him, is looking at the race. Benson oversaw the election and afterward, she defended the election systems, even as she faced armed protesters. Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens, 39, and Debbie Dingell, 69, are looking too.
“I’ve told people I won’t say no yet,” Dingell said in an interview. “There are a lot of people with a lot of thoughts about this … I’ve had a lot of phone calls.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), 51, fresh off a decisive reelection and seen widely in the party as a potential future presidential candidate, has ruled out a run for Senate. State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, 36, who became a national figure in 2022 with a viral speech denouncing a Republican colleague’s incendiary personal attacks, hasn’t fully closed the door on the idea, but said in an interview that she’s eager to see what a Democratic majority in state government will accomplish during the next two years.
The success Democratic women have had in recent elections in Michigan stands out among battleground states. Five of the seven Democrats serving in the U.S. House are women. A majority of Democrats in both chambers in the state legislature are women, including the majority leader of the state Senate. Along with the governor and secretary of state, the Democratic attorney general is also a woman. So is the chair of the state Democratic Party.