Is Pete Buttigieg the Dark Horse Candidate to Replace Michigan Sen. Debby Stabenow?

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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I have a theory that might not be plausible about the current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and retiring United States Senator Debby Stabenow. However, politics is weird, so it could be 100% spot on. Let’s see what you the people think.


Senator Debby Stabenow announced her future retirement from the Senate on Thursday, when she declared she would not run again in 2024. This was a surprise, being this is Michigan and it is a super blue state; that seat was hers until she passed on–and maybe for another term after that.

Immediately, the political wags (including myself) started speculating who would replace her. Once again, this speculation is really limited to the Democrats’ side, being the Michigan GOP is run like a bar managed by semi-functioning alcoholics and won’t have much of a chance of fielding a candidate statewide.

Here are some of the early mentions.

The Kevin Rinke nod is really funny, which I can go into another time.

Politico had this quick hot take and it does mention Secretary Buttigieg, but has a statement from him saying he is not interested.

At least two of the most prominent Michigan Democrats — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who now splits his time between Washington, D.C., and his family home in Traverse City, Mich. — quickly announced they were not planning a run for Stabenow’s seat on Thursday.

Whitmer, in a lengthy statement praising Stabenow’s legacy, noted that as governor, she looked “forward to working with her through the end of her term,” a nod to her plans to serve out her full four-year term, after winning reelection by a more than 10-point margin last year.

Buttigieg released a statement of his own, noting he is “fully focused on serving the President in my role as Secretary of Transportation, and not seeking any other job.” Using the present tense, Buttigieg continued, “we are hard at work to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, grow the economy, and create good-paying jobs.” Buttigieg has turned down chances to run for the House before and has often described himself as someone with an executive skill set.

Stabenow declined to say if she’s spoken with Buttigieg about the seat. “I look forward to talking to a lot of people that are interested,” she said. “But, it’s been a pretty busy day so far for me. And I really haven’t had those opportunities yet.”


All insider types I have chatted with over the past two years have said the exact same things about Whitmer, and then Buttigieg, after he moved here last year.

Gretchen Whitmer has never thought seriously about moving to the Federal side of the political divide. Even when she was interviewed as a VEEP for Scranton Joe, she knew she was not being seriously considered and she does like being Governor of Michigan. With her 10-point victory in November 2022 and never having to face the electorate again, she is cool with staying put.

With Mayor Pete, though, when this story broke last summer, the chatter was a bit different. A refresher, if you will, on this story from 2022.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday the family connections of his husband, Chasten, helped inspire their decision to officially become Michiganians.

Buttigieg, who first found the national political spotlight as South Bend’s mayor in Indiana, has moved to Traverse City, Chasten’s hometown. Buttigieg plans to register to vote there before the midterm election this fall, a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson revealed last week.

“When I married Chasten, I married into Michigan at some level to begin with,” Buttigieg said Monday. “But it was really the arrival of our children that cemented our relationship to Traverse City.”

(Hats off to the author of the story above for getting it right–by calling the people of Michigan Michiganians and not Michiganders.)


The people I talked to had heard the bar lobby conversations that this move for Pete and his family was for this purpose. Everyone thought he was moving to settle in for a Senate run here in blue-friendly Michigan, instead of unfriendly, red Indiana. Now, I dismissed that thinking because I was pretty sure that Stabenow would continue to run as long as Robert Byrd did–because she was just that safe here.

I could be wrong.

I know Pete says in the Politico piece he is NOT running but Stabenow refused to say if she had talked to him about it, which means she DID talk to him about it. We are dealing with politicians here, who–if you recall–are only lying when their mouths are moving.

I think most political types would agree that being a Senator is a pretty big deal and the only thing bigger is being President. Pete has run for President and is now serving one who has trouble thinking. Maybe skipping out a bit early from his current duties, to run for a safe seat in a blue state in 2024, would be super appealing.

Who knows, but it will be interesting to watch.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or check out my BIO and click RIGHT HERE to contact me on all the socials–or my email address– to let me know how you look at this.


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