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GOP Rep. John James won't seek Michigan's open Senate seat

DETROIT (AP) — Republican Rep. John James filed paperwork Friday to run for reelection to his Detroit-area House seat, opting against a campaign for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Debbie Stabenow in 2024.

James, a 41-year-old first-term representative and rising star in the party, had been considered one of Republicans' most promising potential Senate candidates. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate twice before, losing to Stabenow in 2018 and to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in 2020.

Those two statewide bids raised James’ name recognition before he won his House seat in last year's midterms, becoming Michigan’s first Black Republican member of Congress. He has been a frequent guest on conservative media outlets and a strong fundraiser.

Following an event in Detroit on Friday, James told The Associated Press that his focus on his House district “has been unwavering.”

Stabenow announced in January that she would not seek a fifth term, raising the stakes of the contest in the presidential battleground state and giving new hopes to Republicans as they try to retake control of the Senate in 2024. Democrats currently hold a 51-49 advantage in the chamber.

Nikki Snyder, a Republican State Board of Education member, this month became the first candidate to announce a run for Stabenow's seat, but a high-profile candidate has yet to enter the race.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Debbie Dingell, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist have been discussed as potential candidates. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost his Republican primary last year after voting to impeach then-President Donald Trump in 2021, is still considering a GOP run for the seat.

James' decision to seek reelection thins an already small Republican bench of potential Senate candidates in Michigan after the party suffered sweeping losses in statewide and congressional races in November's midterms. Republicans have taken just one of Michigan’s last 15 Senate races, winning an open seat in 1994.

James only narrowly won his race last year, defeating Democrat Carl Malinga by fewer than 2,000 votes despite outraising him by nearly $6 million.

His 10th Congressional District seat, which was recently redrawn to include a chunk of Macomb County and a small portion of Oakland County, is expected to once again be competitive in 2024 and could be critical to Republicans’ chances of maintaining a slim majority in the U.S. House.

Michigan Democratic Chair Lavora Barnes said in a statement to The Associated Press that the party is “aggressively working to flip the 10th congressional district blue.”

In his less than two months in Congress, James has been named vice chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment and delivered a prominent speech on the House floor last month to nominate Kevin McCarthy as speaker.

Over five generations, James said in the speech, “My family’s gone from slave to the floor of the United States House of Representatives,” now seeing him become the first in his freshman class of lawmakers to address the full House.

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Associated Press writer Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.