Republican John James, a political newcomer who flew Army helicopters in the Iraq War and now runs an automotive supply chain and logistics business in Detroit, said Thursday he is running for U.S. Senate.
He is the second candidate in the GOP primary field, joining former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Young after another business executive, Lena Epstein, left the race this week to seek a House seat instead. The 36-year-old James formally began exploring a bid two months ago and said the reception has been positive because voters want someone like him who has "relevant experience."
"I believe that we need a combat veteran on the floor of the U.S. Senate who's actually been to combat and understands what it takes to keep America safe because he's actually done it. Someone who understands national security from a strategical and tactical level as this world becomes a more dangerous place," James told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "But we also need somebody who understands economic opportunity and someone who's actually created jobs."
Third-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is up for re-election in 2018 after easily winning her last two races. Donald Trump's narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in the state has given the GOP some optimism about facing Stabenow, but defeating her will be difficult. Rep. Fred Upton is considering a bid, and musician Kid Rock has teased his interest.
James officially announced his candidacy in a video posted on Facebook. He intends to do one unscripted video each day for the first 100 days of the campaign.
James' father co-founded James Group International, a group of companies offering global supply chain management services. James said since he started working as president at the family business in 2012 after eight years of military service, 100 jobs have been added and revenue has more than tripled.
The West Point graduate and Ranger-qualified aviation officer, who is black, said he flew 750 combat hours in Iraq, and "God and country" are very important to him. He has master's degrees from Penn State University and the University of Michigan and lives with his wife and their two young children in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.
Asked to assess the ability of Trump and the Republican-led Congress to enact their agenda to date, James said Trump "is not a politician and neither am I. The nation is becoming increasingly more divided. Career politicians have become increasingly more ineffective. We have a national debt that's screaming past $20 trillion on career politicians' watch. I would say that our president has kept his promises ... and we're trending in the right direction."
He credited Trump for appointing Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, surrounding himself with military leaders and curtailing government regulations. Trump recently defied Republicans in striking an agreement with Democrats to keep the government operating and raise the nation's debt limit for three months.
James' announcement came a day before the start of the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference — a gathering for party activists, donors and others held every two years.