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Supreme Turned Senator? Young’s Name Planted As Stabenow Challenger

April 25, 2017

Courtesy of MIRS News

The name of former state Supreme Court Justice Robert YOUNG, Jr., has been thrown in the mix, as a potential 2018 Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Debbie STABENOW (D-Delta Twp.).

A report in Crain’s Detroit Business didn’t say where the urging was coming from. In a statement to the publication, Young, who is leaving the bench on April 30 called it “flattering” while remaining noncommittal. 

“I never imagined when I decided it was time to leave the court that there would be such interest in my future,” he told the publication. 

Naturally, much speculation has ensued. After he announced his departure, longtime Republican political operative Bob LaBRANT quipped to MIRS, “Maybe Debbie Stabenow will have to watch her back.” 

Dan PERO, chief of staff to House Speaker Tom LEONARD and a personal friend of Young’s, was bullish on a potential Young candidacy in a Facebook post. 

“Bob Young for U.S. Senate?” Pero wrote. “You bet! Run, Bob, run. He could raise millions from conservatives around the country; stand against this political correctness and bring intellectual heft to the U.S. Senate! Look out, Stabanever! Here come da judge!” 

Michigan’s Constitution says judges must wait a year before running for a non-judicial office, though previous cases have nullified that rule for federal offices. Either way, his departure date would give him a comfortable berth of time, if he were to pursue a candidacy. 

“If you’re the Republicans and you’re desperately casting about for a candidate, and you don’t have any of consequence, Bob Young would be a viable option,” said Bill BALLENGER, publisher of The Ballenger Report

U.S. Rep. Fred UPTON (R-St. Joseph) has also been named as a potential candidate.

Ballenger said he thinks a Young candidacy would clear the field of major Republican contenders for the slot. He believes Upton and other establishment figures have little stomach for a run, but didn’t rule out a tea party primary challenge, though he has not heard of one. 

And Stabenow herself has provided a considerable deterrent to running by dispatching her last two challengers handily, along with running a robust fundraising operation.

“I think any Republican running at this point against Debbie Stabenow next year is going to be a distinct underdog,” he said. “That’s not to say that Debbie Stabenow couldn’t be beaten under the right circumstances and with the right candidate.” 

Republican consultant Stu SANDLER of Grand River Strategies thinks Young could be that candidate. He was also eager to point out he hasn’t spoken to Young about a candidacy. 

“He’s a solid conservative, I think he’d be a good candidate, because I think Stabenow is eminently beatable,” Sandler said. “I’m hoping someone of his caliber decides to run . . . I think he’d run a really great race, I think he could beat her.” 

Ballenger is a bit more lukewarm about Young’s chances. While he said Stabenow is “well to the left” of most Michigan voters, he said an ideal challenger would have more of a center-right ideology. Why Young’s exclusively judicial career affords him the flexibility to claim that position, Ballenger thinks his record on the court could serve as ammunition for Democrats. 

“He’s authored a number of opinions and cast votes as a Supreme Court Justice that the Democrats would use against him,” he said. “There are things in his record that Stabenow and Democrats would use to say ‘this guy is too far to the right for Michigan.'” 

While Sandler and Ballenger cited name ID as one of Young’s assets, Bob McCANN, CEO of Cover Two Strategies, said “Michigan Supreme Court justices aren’t exactly household names,” and his judicial career means he lacks the strong political brand figures like Stabenow do. 

“He has the potential to be a good candidate,” McCann said. “I just don’t know how strong he’d come out of the gates given how relatively few people know who he is.” 

McCann said Stabenow is a “very strong favorite,” given President Donald TRUMP‘s early unpopularity. He said the lack of name ID would be a fundamental hurdle. 

McCann speculated Young’s courting may be an attempt by Michigan Republicans to get a candidate out there, or at least committed to a run, so a build-up can begin. Whether it’s Young they want, or are floating his name to push another figure out of the woodwork, McCann was unsure.

Ballenger, though, was skeptical Young will run. 

“He’s 65 years old, which is not really a time to start a political career,” Ballenger said, while noting Upton is 66. “(Young’s) had a lifetime of public service. He wants to make some money and probably have a little more time, and he certainly won’t get any of those things if he runs for the U.S. Senate.”

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