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Midterm Countdown: The Apache helicopter pilot who wants to be Michigan’s next senator
By Dan Holly
In a race that will test whether Trump can get his mojo back in Michigan, John James is one of two Republicans vying to win the nomination for the U.S. Senate. James, 37, is president of the family business, a supply chain logistics company. He graduated from West Point in 2004 and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he earned combat medals for his role as an Apache attack helicopter pilot.
James also is African-American in a state whose largest city is overwhelmingly black. He has been a more unwavering supporter of President Donald Trump than his opponent, Sandy Pensler; a 61-year-old, lawyer turned businessman, who has criticized Trump’s style. Trump rewarded James for his strong support with a tweet endorsing him on July 27.

The winner will face Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, who polls better than either Republican candidate. Polls also show Trump deeply unpopular among all Michigan voters today, even though he won the state in 2016. This race is a test of whether the president can regain his popularity in a state that usually votes blue in presidential elections.
Details of the campaign:
In the latest campaign reports, Pensler had raised $5.2 million and James $4.2 million. However, Pensler, who has started several businesses and owns four manufacturing plants, propped up his fund-raising efforts with a $5 million loan to himself, according to the Detroit News.
Top issues:
James presents himself as a solid conservative and reliable supporter of the president. His website presents his top qualifications as:
•    A person of strong values and a sacrificial mindset (“Faith and family, God and country, service before self”);
•    A combat veteran who values national security. (“We will begin work to develop strategies to address our debt, improve our cyber defenses, and give our military the resources that they need to keep Americans safe.”);
•    A business leader (“I understand how to create jobs because I’ve done it before.”); and
•    A strong supporter of Trump’s policies, specifically “tax relief for working families to the elimination of overbearing government regulations.”
For local issues, James pledges to support Michigan farmers by ensuring that “federal regulations make sense”; improve education by empowering “parents and local communities … not Washington” to make school decisions, and champion policies and programs that protect the Great Lakes.
A little known fact about John James:
He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a certification that requires scoring 580 out of a potential of 750 points on an exam that tests knowledge of Japanese-influenced management principles.
What the polls say:
Pensler was ahead in polls taken earlier in the race, but James has gained ground and may even have pulled ahead. A Detroit Free Press poll in late July showed a virtually deadlocked race. An NBC/Marist poll released in late July shows James ahead with the support of 30 percent of voters as opposed to Pensler’s 23. However, 46 percent of respondents were undecided, so the race still appears to be up for grabs.
Either candidate would face a tough task in the general election. The incumbent, Democrat Debbie Stabenow, would beat either Republican candidate by at least 15 points, the NBC/Marist poll showed.
But James, who has endorsements ranging from the American Conservative Union to rock star Kid Rock, insists that Stabenow’s support has plateaued and that his is surging. “John James’ momentum continues as voters around the state are looking to put a combat veteran in the US Senate,” his campaign said in a recent press release.
Photo: The Twitter Account of John James @JohnJamesMI