John James, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate candidate speaks at a rally for Republicans in Oakland County Monday with Vice President Mike Pence at the Oakland County Airport in Waterford, Oct. 29, 2018. (Tanya Moutzalias | steustatiushistory.org) Tanya Moutzalias | steustatiushistory.orgTanya Moutzalias | steustatiushistory.org



The Michigan Democratic Party is portraying GOP U.S. Senate contender John James as out of touch with public sentiment on abortion rights by unearthing statements from his 2018 Senate bid.

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The state party is prepared to fight hard in 2020 to protect U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, one of only two Democratic Senate incumbents in states won by President Donald Trump. Though candidates have yet to start actively campaigning, the state Democratic Party launched a website to highlight James’ “toxic record," taking an early focus on his firm commitment to restricting abortion access.

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James, a Farmington Hills businessman and U.S. Army veteran, is a staunch proponent of rolling back access to abortions. He opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest, said he would support Roe v. Wade being overturned and compared to abortion to “genocide” during his failed 2018 Senate bid.

“His far-right views on reproductive rights are very out of step with Michigan voters,” said MDP spokesperson Alex Japko. “The idea that James doesn’t even support exceptions for rape and incset show he’s not where the majority of Michigan voters are on this issue. I think that’s going to be a problem for him next year.”

Pew Research Center polling found 61% of the public believes abortion should be legal in most cases, while 26% said abortion should be illegal in most cases and 12% said it should be illegal with no exceptions. Only 28% want the Supreme Court to completely overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

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The Michigan Democratic Party released audio from a July 13, 2018 campaign event James attended in Lansing, which drew criticism from anti-abortion groups this week.

“They want to do away with our children -- 50 million dead since Roe v. Wade," James said at the event. "That’s unacceptable. I have to recount, not to anybody in this room or anybody in Washington, but with the Lord. I want to hear seven words: Well done my good and faithful servant. Standing by and letting this genocide continue stands in the way of that happening.”


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James campaign spokesperson Abby Walls said abortion is an issue he feels strongly about. Walls said James isn’t shy about his convictions and is “100% pro-life.”

Michigan Planned Parenthood Advocates said the statement shows James’ “extreme agenda” is out of touch with Michigan voters. Peters earned one of Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s first endorsements the 2020 campaign cycle.

“Comparing the right of Michiganders to make private decisions regarding their health and medical care to genocide is reprehensible,” the organization said in a statement.

Right to Life of Michigan communications director Chris Gast said there’s nothing wrong with describing abortion as genocide.

'You’re talking about the loss of human life, the deliberate killing of a large group of people," Gast said.

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NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion-rights nonprofit that also endorsed Peters, also takes issue with James’ past statements. Chief Research and Communications Officer Adrienne Kimmell said James is aligning himself with the “anti-choice movement.”

“Michiganders will be happy to remind him in November that people do not want politicians inserting themselves into personal decisions about pregnancy,” Kimmell said in a statement.

NARAL gave $10,000 to Peters’ re-election effort. Planned Parenthood Action Fund contributed $10,000 to Peters’ 2014 campaign.

James has strong ties to anti-abortion organizations, which have spent tens of thousands of dollars to support his campaigns in 2018 and 2020.

James was endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan’s political action committee earlier this year. He was the only Senate candidate the PAC endorsed in the last cycle.

“Having a pro-life Senate is vital, and it may come down to John James,” said RLM-PAC Chairman Paul Miller in a statement earlier this year.

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James was also endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, a non-profit striving to end abortion, in 2018. The organization donated $4,800 so far to his 2020 campaign and previously contributed $7,500 to his 2018 Senate bid.

James’ strong resistance to abortion access was a point of distinction during the 2018 primary. James’ Republican opponent Sandy Pensler supported abortion in cases of rape and incest.

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The Michigan Democratic Party in a recent press release accused James of dodging questions about whether he supports emergency procedures to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of the mother.

The Michigan Democratic Party seized on the issue this week, digging up an August 2018 radio interview on “WILS Morning Wake Up with Dave Akerly" and accusing James of dodging questions about whether he supports emergency procedures to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of the mother.

James didn’t clarify his position on exceptions when the mother’s life is at risk during the interview, despite being pressed several times.

James said at the time he would Roe v. Wade should be overturned so states can make up their own rules on abortion. Michigan never repealed a 173-year-old law banning abortion, which would make it a felony to administer an abortion if the landmark case is overturned.

Walls said James supports policies that take care of “both the mother and baby,” but didn’t clarify whether that means he would oppose exceptions for cases where a mother’s life is in jeopardy. Walls declined to answer additional questions.

James is the top GOP recruit running for Senate in 2020. Republicans place the Michigan race among the most important battlegrounds to determine which party controls the Senate.

Peters, a freshman senator, former congressman and U.S. Navy Reserve veteran, is running for a second six-year term.

Peters 2020 Campaign Manager Dan Farough said James “can’t be trusted to stand up for Michigan women.”

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