Who is John James? 7 things to know about Michigan’s Senate candidate

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John James, a businessman and veteran, is vying to unseat Democratic Sen. Gary Peters on Tuesday to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate.

Michigan is a critical swing state for control of the Senate and for the White House. President Trump shocked the world when he won the presidency in 2016 by carrying Michigan by less than 11,000 votes. 

Now James, 39, is also trying to defy the odds. Michigan hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1994.

Here’s seven things to know about the Republican Senate nominee.

1) James is an Iraq war veteran 

James is a 2004 West Point graduate and Ranger-qualified aviation officer. He served during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a helicopter pilot and flew more than 750 combat hours and led two Apache platoons.

2) He’s running his family’s automotive supply business in Detroit

After his military service, James returned home to join his family’s business, James Group International, that his father founded. James serves as president of the company.

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James Group is comprised of Renaissance Global Logistics, Magnolia Automotive Services, Motor City Intermodal Distribution, and TLX. Its 2016 revenue was $129 million, Crain’s Detroit Business reported

3) He ran for Senate once before

James entered politics in 2017 and the political newcomer did better than expected by winning the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate and mounting a competitive run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Stabenow beat James in 2018 by about 6 points: 52% to 46%.

4) He could be the first Black Michigan U.S. senator 

James would be the first African American elected to represent Michigan in the Senate. If successful, he’d join Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina as one of two current GOP Black senators.

5) He’s raised money for charity through the “Nickel Promise”

James has pledged to give 5% of the money he raises during his Senate campaign to charity. As of Oct. 1, James has donated over $1 million to communities throughout Michigan. 

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One recipient was a health center that received $200,000 to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This Senate race isn’t about me, it’s about the people of Michigan. I’m not waiting until I’m in office to make a difference in my community, I’m doing it now. I’m far from perfect, but I do my best to put Jesus’ teachings of love into action by loving my neighbor as myself,” James said at the time

6) President Trump backs him

Trump has called James a “star” and considered nominating him as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

James said in 2017 he backed Trump “2,000%” but this time around has sought some distance with the president and has pitched himself as a “conservative outsider.”

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James is banking on having crossover appeal and winning over some Joe Biden voters to beat Peters. 

7) He’s a dad of young kids

James and his wife, Liz, have three young sons.

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