Despite five-star string of high-level conservative endorsements and a last-minute media broadside aside, Clark Durant fell short in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Michigan Tuesday night. The winner, with 55 percent of the vote statewide, was former Rep. (1992-2010) Pete Hoekstra, who will now face liberal Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
In the week preceding the primary, onetime Reagan administration official and longtime conservative Durant seemed to be getting considerable steam. Steve Forbes campaigned for him, Mike Huckabee endorsed him, and more than 41 different tea party groups in the Water Wonderland worked the precincts for him. In addition, Gross Pointe lawyer Durant put in $500,000 in the close of the race on a media blitz that slammed Hoekstra for his support of the Wall Street bailouts and close relationship with Teamster Union President Jimmy Hoffa.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Hoekstra’s (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 90.84 percent) conservative record on most other issues or his reputation as an all-around “nice guy.” A huge portion of Republican primary votes are cast in his back yard of Western Michigan (Grand Rapids) and Hoekstra clearly staved off attacks from his right flank with endorsements from such conservative heroes as Rick Santorum, Sen. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).
Durant was also hampered by his inactivity in the party in recent years. Since he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1990, he has spent more time developing a successful charter school than he has fostering relationships in GOP politics.
“Clark is a superb candidate and rock-solid conservative, all right, but they don’t come any nicer than Pete,” noted Ingham County (Lansing) GOP Chairman Norm Shinkle. The Lansing GOP leader, who first alerted Human Events to crossover votes from Democrats for Santorum in the presidential primary to embarrass native son Mitt Romney, said that this time “there is no motivation for a major cross-over vote.”
The 56-year-old Hoekstra now faces an uphill fight against Stabenow, with an NBC News/Marist poll showing him trailing the two-term senator by a margin of 49-to-37 percent statewide. The last time a Republican defeated an incumbent Democratic senator from Michigan was Charles Potter in 1952.