By Zachary Stieber
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she will step away from Congress at the end of her term, leaving an open seat as Democrats prepare to defend a slim majority in the upper chamber.
“Inspired by a new generation of leaders, I have decided to pass the torch in the U.S. Senate,” Stabenow said in a statement on Jan. 5.
The senator, 72, has been in office since 2001 after knocking off then-Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) in the 2000 election.
Stabenow, who did not endorse any person to succeed her or identify any of the “new generation of leaders”, also cited a desire to spend more time with family.
“When my term ends, I intend to begin a new chapter in my life that includes continuing to serve our State outside of elected office while spending precious time with my amazing 96-year-old mom and my wonderful family,” Stabenow said.
The senator’s term ends on Jan. 3, 2025.
Senate terms are six years.
Stabenow said she was proud of helping pass legislation that has “made a difference in people’s lives and created a strong foundation for a healthy and prosperous future for our state” and would be working in her final years in office on passing legislation that would improve people’s lives, including helping pass a new farm bill. Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Stabenow won the 2018 race with 52.3 percent of the vote. Republican John James, now a representative-elect, received 45.8 percent. That was Stabenow’s narrowest margin of victory since her narrow win over Abraham.
In 2020, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) beat James. Peters had 49.9 percent of the vote; James had 48.2 percent.
First Retirement of 2024 Cycle
Republicans hoped to flip the Senate in 2022 but failed to flip any seats and lost a Pennsylvania seat that had been held by former Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) beat Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee, to edge the Democrat majority to 51–49.
The GOP’s efforts were complicated by five retirements while Democrats had to deal with just one, former Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and even that open race was in a blue state.
Michigan, in contrast, often elects Republicans in some House of Representative districts, and analysts say the seat Stabenow holds could be up for grabs.
“One of the best thing Dems had going for them in ‘22 was zero retirements in battleground states. Just a few days into ‘24 cycle and they already have one vulnerable open seat to defend,” Amy Walter, publisher and editor-in chief of Cook Political Report, said on Twitter.
Mike Berg, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to get Republicans elected, said in a statement that Senate Democrats lack a campaign chair but are already dealing with a major retirement.
“We are going to aggressively target this seat in 2024. This could be the first of many Senate Democrats who decide to retire rather than lose,” Berg said.
No candidates in either party have announced bids for the seat Stabenow holds.
Possible candidates include Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democrat secretary of state; Dana Nessel, a Democrat who serves as the state’s attorney general; and Tudor Dixon, a Republican who lost the 2022 Michigan gubernatorial election to incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Democrats already faced a tougher map in 2024. In 2022, Republicans defended 21 seats, including two seats in states that President Joe Biden won in 2020, while Democrats had to defend just 14, with none in states former President Donald Trump won that year.
Two years later, Democrats are defending 21 of the 33 seats, including two in states Trump won—Montana and West Virginia. Trump won Michigan in 2016 but Biden won the state in 2020.