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Hill Harper, an actor on 'CSI: NY' and 'The Good Doctor,' is running for the US Senate in Michigan

 Harper Hill, via a video message, announcing his
Harper Hill
Video screengrab
Harper Hill, via a video message, announcing his run for U.S. Senate in Michigan.

Hill Harper, an actor known for his roles on “CSI: NY” and “The Good Doctor,” announced on Monday that he is running for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat and challenging U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin for the Democratic nomination.

Harper is the sixth Democratic candidate to enter the race for retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's seat. Stabenow announced in January that she would not be seeking a fifth term in 2024 in the battleground state.

Born in Iowa, Harper owns a house in Detroit and bought a coffee shop, Roasting Plant Coffee, in the city in 2017. He attended Brown University and Harvard Law School before becoming an actor. He starred on the CBS show “CSI: NY” for nine seasons and currently appears on ABC's “The Good Doctor.”

Harper was appointed to President Barack Obama's cancer panel in 2012 as a survivor of the disease himself.

In an interview with The Associated Press before his announcement, Harper described himself as a small-business owner, a union member and an activist. He said that not being a “career politician” would serve as an advantage in Congress and that he plans to run a campaign “powered by the people, for the people.”

“It’s not about party. It’s about people feeling represented,” Harper said. “And being an independent voice in the U.S. Senate is something I believe Michiganders want right now.”

Harper faces a tough test in catching Slotkin in both fundraising and campaigning. Slotkin has raised $5.8 million in just over four months, according to her campaign, and $3.6 million of it remains unspent. She has been endorsed by fellow U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat who represents parts of suburban Detroit.

Many top Democratic candidates who had been considering a run for the Senate opted against it before Slotkin's February announcement, seemingly clearing the field for the third-term representative who rose to prominence by consistently winning one of the nation's most competitive House seats.

But the field of Democratic candidates has grown in recent months. State Board of Education member Pamela Pugh, former Detroit state Rep. Leslie Love, businessman Nasser Beydoun and attorney Zack Burns have all announced campaigns.

More candidates are expected to jump into both party primaries.

David Dulio is an Oakland University political science professor. He said organization will matter and fundraising will matter, but there could easily be surprises – especially since primaries tend to be low-turnout elections.

“The more crowded the field, the easier it is for a lesser-known candidate because they can win without having to amass a large plurality of the vote,” Dulio told Michigan Public Radio.

He says the competition for voters’ attention will be especially intense in a presidential election year. President Joe Biden won Michigan in 2020 with 50.6% of the vote.

Michigan remains a must-win state for Democrats if they hope to maintain control of the Senate, with tough races expected in Ohio, West Virginia, Montana, Nevada and Pennsylvania. In 2020, Republican John James, now a U.S. representative, narrowly lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

While two GOP candidates have announced, including state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, Republicans have yet to find a high-profile contender to vie for the seat. Several potential candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, are considering bids.

Republicans have taken just one of Michigan’s last 15 Senate races, winning an open seat in 1994.

Also Monday, former state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., a Democrat, will announce his bid for Slotkin’s seat in the 7th Congressional District, one of the nation’s most competitive House districts. Former state Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican, launched his second run for the seat Sunday.

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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