Hill Harper, an author and actor, entered Michigan’s 2024 Senate race on Monday, pledging to run to the left of Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a moderate Democrat, in what is expected to be one of the most closely watched Democratic primary contests in the 2024 presidential race. battlefield state.
Mr. Harper, a first-time candidate known for his roles on “CSI: NY” and “The Good Doctor,” began his campaign with a message focused on expanding Social Security and access to affordable health care, as well as tackling income inequality. and student debt. In an interview, he said he plans to position himself as “the most progressive candidate” in the race and will work to bring tired and unheard voters back into the Democratic fold.
“It was clear to me that people across Michigan don’t feel like they’re being represented in Washington,” he said, describing his conversations with people at farmers markets and union halls as he weighed his decision to run. The state’s Democratic leadership, which occupies the governor’s office and both chambers of the Michigan State House, he added, “has done a lot to move the state forward, but Washington is still broken.”
The Democratic primary is likely to be followed by a heated general election against a tense backdrop. Donald J. Trump won this industrial Midwestern state by nearly 11,000 votes in 2016, and lost it to Joseph R. Biden Jr. by more than 150,000 votes in his re-election bid in 2020. Mr. Trump has focused on the Michigan vote in his efforts to undermine the 2020 election.
As they head into the 2024 presidential cycle, Democrats will focus on holding onto their midterm victories in Michigan in 2022, when protecting abortion rights galvanized the party nationwide.
Mr. Harper’s supporters believe that, as a Black progressive, he will be able to pull together a coalition of liberal and Black voters. His campaign could particularly resonate with Black voters in a state where the debate over race and representation has raged in some corners: The 2022 midterm elections left Detroit, the nation’s largest majority-black city, without Black representation in Congress for the first time in decades.
But Mr. Harper will face an uphill climb against Ms. Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and three-term congresswoman who has built a track record as a seasoned campaigner and prolific fundraiser. She won three tough races for her House seat in a central Michigan district that includes Lansing. Mrs. Slotkin had more than $2.3 million cash on hand at the end of March, and runs on a platform focused on jobs and economic issues.
She was the first in her party to declare her candidacy for the seat being vacated by Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, and has the solid support of establishment Democrats at the state and national level.
That hasn’t deterred Mr. Harper and a handful of Democrats from jumping in, including Leslie Love, a former state lawmaker, and Pamela Pugh, who serves as chairwoman of the Michigan State Board of Education.
For the Republicans, Nikki Snyder, a member of the State Board of Education, and Ezra Scott, a former commissioner of Berrien County, are competing for the seat.