The Democratic field to replace retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has expanded with the entrance of Pamela Pugh, president of Michigan’s Board of Education, the only aspirant to this point to have won a statewide race. She is vying to become only the third Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Pugh launched her campaign Tuesday, joining a field that includes three-term Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and three lesser-known Democrats. Actor Hill Harper is also expected to join the race.
The open seat is viewed by both parties as key to control of the Senate after next year’s elections, though Republicans have struggled to recruit top-tier candidates.
Pugh, who won reelection to her post last fall, emphasized education, among other issues, during a kickoff event in Flint, Mich., where she served as the chief public health adviser during the city’s lead-tainted water crisis that emerged in 2016.
“This is a campaign that is about safe schools, equitable funding and teachers that are respected and well-paid,” Pugh said. “A campaign that is about making sure that children have access to an education that prepares them for the future that they deserve.”
There are no Black women serving in the Senate. Only two — Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and Kamala D. Harris of California, both Democrats — have previously been elected to the chamber.
Other Democrats who could expand those numbers include Rep. Barbara Lee, who is part of a competitive field for an open seat next year in California, and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, who is expected to launch a bid for an open seat in that state.
One other candidate in the Democratic Senate field in Michigan, former state representative Leslie Love, is also Black. The field also includes businessman Nasser Beydoun and lawyer Zack Burns.
Slotkin announced her widely anticipated bid in February. A former CIA analyst, she is seen by many top Democrats as a formidable contender with a proven record of winning in competitive House districts.
She won her first election in 2018, motivated like many women that year to seek office in repudiation of President Donald Trump. She has positioned herself as a moderate, rejecting positions and rhetoric adopted by the far left while championing Democratic principles such as abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons.
During an interview this week with the Detroit News, Pugh sought to make the case for her electability.
“Having won two statewide elections and winning them handily, I know that I am prepared, I know that I am electable,” she said. “I definitely believe that the voice of a Black woman needs to be at the table, deserves to be at the table, and I am qualified to be at the table.”
Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.