Peters vs. James in Michigan US Senate race: Where they stand on 6 big issues

Voting underway in Michigan

FILE - In this combination of 2018 and 2019 file photos are, from left, Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James. James has been called a rising star of the Republican Party so many times it's become a cliche. Now Republicans are looking to the African American combat veteran, business owner and father of three to flip a Senate seat to help the party hold its precarious majority. But James' race against Sen. Gary Peters in a presidential battleground state has suddenly gotten dicier. Although Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016, the mood seems to be turning away from the president and the GOP. (AP Photos, File) (Uncredited, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – Democratic U.S. Senator Gary Peters is in a tight race with Republican businessman John James for the Michigan Senate seat in the upcoming November election.

Multiple polls over the last few months show a tight race with Peters ahead by a slim margin. The polls also show a large number of undecided voters in the race.

Voting is underway in Michigan with more than two million expected to vote by mail for the November election.

Where Peters and James stand on 6 big issues:


Peters: Gary Peters supports the Affordable Care Act and supports expanding options, like a Medicare public option. He has opposed efforts to repeal the ACA. Peters has proposed and cosponsored legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. (Read more here)

James: John James has previously supported repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would result in a loss of protections for millions of people with pre-existing conditions. More recently, James said he wants to reform parts of the ACA that don’t work. According to his website, James will only support a plan that includes “tort reform and regulatory reform in a manner that lowers cost while increasing quality of care.” James opposes a single-payer health care system, according to his website. James also adds that the U.S. needs a system “that emphasizes preventive wellness care.” James has not released his own plan for a healthcare system.

Note: We also fact-checked healthcare claims made in ads for this race.


Peters: Gary Peters opposes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He supports expanding access to technical, vocational and apprenticeship programs. He passed bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for students in career and technical education by increasing training and awareness for school counselors. Peters has also passed legislation to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans. Additionally, Peters has cosponsored legislation to expand opportunities for high school students to obtain college credit. He has also secured funding for Head Start programs in Michigan.

James: John James supports “all” education options, including public, charter and private. James also supports expanding options for skilled workforce training. James has previous said that he supports DeVos, though he has not outlined any specifics.

Coronavirus response

Peters: As a sitting U.S. Senator during the coronavirus pandemic, Peters has supported unemployment aid expansion, free testing, small business relief, hospital funding and has proposed the “Heroes Fund,” to increase pay for essential workers. Peters voted in favor of the CARES Act in March. He has also voted against a $300 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, citing the need for larger aid and more oversight.

James: John James has not held public office during the pandemic. There is no specific pandemic response plan listed on his website. James has said he would have voted to pass the CARES Act in March, and has been critical of Peters for not passing a second relief bill. James has called for more investment in infrastructure and job access as a route to rebuilding the economy. James has offered support of President Trump’s pandemic response, saying Trump has “done everything that he has thought was best."


Peters: Gary Peters has said he supports certain aspects of the Green New Deal, but did not back the plan. Peters has been quite active on the environmental front, proposing and passing legislation to increase accountability for big oil companies responsible for spills and to eliminate bailouts for oil and gas companies. Peters has led bipartisan efforts to secure funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Peters has proposed and passed legislation related to PFAS, including a ban on firefighting foam containing PFAS in the 2019 National Defense Bill, and calling to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance.

James: John James opposes the Green New Deal. According to his website, James believes environmental regulation “needs to be based on science and common sense.” James says he wants to incentivize private sector innovation around energy, transportation and plastics. James also says the U.S. “must work with our allies to hold the world’s biggest polluters accountable and assist where possible by exporting American made goods.” James supports the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Abortion, women’s rights

Peters: Gary Peters is pro-choice. Peters has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the National Organization for Women (NOW). In 2015, Peters cosponsored the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act. Peters also cosponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to close loopholes that allow companies to pay female employees less solely on the basis of gender.

James: John James is pro-life. According to his website, James believes “we must make adoption much easier and take away the financial burden from both the mother and the new parents.” James says, as a Senator, he would “fight for equal pay, removing barriers to upward mobility, modernizing family leave, ending sexual harassment, and allowing more flexible work schedules that make it easier for women to work and raise a family.”

Second Amendment, guns

Peters: Gary Peters supports the Second Amendment. Peters has supported and cosponsored legislation to create comprehensive background checks for guns. Peters has said he is a gun-owner.

James: John James supports the Second Amendment. On his website, James says he supports “keeping weapons away from those with mental illness or those who demonstrate a desire to harm themselves or others.” James says he’s open to a conversation on guns “that protects lives and protects individual rights.”

What to know before voting in General Election in Michigan on Nov. 3, 2020

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.