Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., officially entered the race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin on Wednesday during a visit to his great-great-grandfather’s house in Rochester Hills.
“We’re going to continue the work that I’ve done in the U.S. House, fighting for middle class, fighting and making sure we have jobs and opportunities, growing the economy here in Michigan,” Peters said in his first interview with a national outlet after his announcement.
Democrats have essentially cleared the field for Peters, who represented both suburban and downtown Detroit during his three terms in Congress. CQ Roll Call reported on Monday that Peters would make his Senate announcement in his hometown, which is in politically pivotal Oakland County.
Republicans continue to hunt for a candidate. GOP contenders include former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Reps. Justin Amash and Mike Rogers — but none of the trio has taken formal steps toward a bid. Even so, Democrats are favored to keep this Senate seat in 2014.
Meanwhile, Peters will kick off his campaign Thursday in Flint, alongside freshman Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., then he will travel to Lansing and Grand Rapids. He expects to announce additional endorsements in the coming weeks.
“I think it will be very clear over the days and weeks ahead that I’ve got strong support,” he said. “Every Democratic state senator has endorsed my campaign. We’ve got universal support among the state legislature.”
Peters has endured tough races — both primaries and general elections. In 2010, he was one of only a few freshman Democrats to vote for the president’s health care overhaul law and win re-election. He’s familiar with the political perils of the law, which officials will continue to implement over the next year.
“I’m no stranger to talking about Affordable Care Act,” Peters said. “It’s something that I voted on prior to the 2010 election … in my district that year, the Republican governor won by over 20 points. I still won re-election and voted for the Affordable Care Act.”
The next cycle, during the decennial redistricting process, Republican state lawmakers dismantled Peters’ district by splitting it into several districts. In 2012, Peters defeated a Democratic colleague, then-Rep. Hansen Clarke, to win re-election in a nearby heavily Democratic, majority-black district in Detroit.
This cycle, his candidacy also comes at a crossroads for the former bastion of organized labor: Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed right-to-work legislation into law in December. Peters, along with several Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, implored the governor to reconsider without success.
Several months later, Peters said the law has energized union activists — a sentiment that only help his prospects.
“The signing of the right-to-work law has energized labor households in the state of Michigan,” he said, noting that it will help turnout. “I’m fully expecting you’ll see very active participation from labor households in 2014.”
The law stunned the traditionally Democratic state. Last year, the president won the Wolverine State by almost 10 points.
“I would be pleased to campaign with President Obama,” Peters said of his Senate campaign.
Correction: 8:18 a.m.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the governor of Michigan. It is Rick Snyder.