“After a good deal of reflection, I’ve decided that I cannot sit on the sidelines while the president and U.S. Senate mortgage our children and grandchildren’s future,” Hoekstra said in a statement released today. “For these reasons, I have made the decision to file the appropriate paperwork to build an organization and begin a campaign for the U.S. Senate. An official campaign announcement will be forthcoming in the months ahead.”
Earlier this year, Hoekstra said he would not be a candidate for the Senate, as had been speculated soon after he finished second to now-Gov. Rick Snyder in the Republican Party primary for governor in August 2010.
Hoekstra served the Michigan 2nd Congressional District — which includes the Grand Haven area and stretches from the Holland area north to Benzie County — from 1993 until six months ago. He was first elected to Congress by running a grassroots-based campaign, using a bicycle to travel around the district to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Guy Vander Jagt in the 1992 Republican primary.
Hoekstra didn’t seek a 10th two-year term last year, opting instead to run for governor.
Since he left Congress in January, Hoekstra has been working as a senior adviser to Dickstein Shapiro LLP’s public policy and law practice in Washington, with an emphasis on national security and foreign relations.
“Over the last couple of years, the spending in Washington has spun out of control,” Hoekstra, 57, said in his announcement today. “Michigan needs a U.S. senator who will cut spending without raising taxes and help create jobs. Replacing Debbie Stabenow means we’ll be one step closer to the economic recovery our state’s working families deserve.”
Several leading Michigan Republicans said they are excited that Hoekstra threw his hat into the ring.
“I knew he was contemplating it and we’re all excited about it,” said former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester, a Hoekstra supporter.
The Michigan Republican Party has been casting about for a strong candidate to take on Stabenow, especially since former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (now running for president) decided against facing her next year. Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch, former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy are the only Republicans currently filed to run for the nomination. None had more than $30,000 on hand in campaign finance reports filed Friday.
Stabenow’s campaign did not comment on the prospect of Hoekstra entering the race, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did. DSCC Press Secretary Shripal Shah called Hoekstra “Mr. Revolving Door.”
“Pete Hoekstra is a congressman turned Washington lobbyist who has stood up for taxpayer-funded bonuses for bailed out CEOs, tax giveaways for oil companies and Republican efforts to privatize Medicare,” Shah said.
State political experts say taking on Stabenow won’t be an easy task for anyone. Last week, her campaign reported it had raised $1.5 million in the three months before June 30 — the best fundraising quarter she’s ever had — and has more than $4 million cash on hand.
Stabenow upset GOP Sen. Spencer Abraham in 2000 and won re-election in 2006 with 57 percent of the vote. But a statewide poll released Tuesday by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA showed Stabenow with a 51-percent negative job approval rating, with only 38 percent giving her a positive rating and 11 percent undecided. The poll of 600 likely voters also showed 47 percent had a favorable opinion of the Lansing Democrat, while 35 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 17 percent were undecided. The July 9-11 poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Hoekstra opposes abortion rights and gay marriage, and is a fan of home schooling and a constitutional amendment that says parents have a “fundamental right” to raise their children without government interference. He joined Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — now a GOP presidential candidate — in founding the House Tea Party Caucus last year.
Political experts say Hoekstra will have to broaden his appeal to independents and less socially conservative Republicans than himself if he wants to beat Stabenow.
The Detroit Free Press (MCT) and The Associated Press contributed to this report.