DETROIT (AP) - Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow rode a message of moderate bipartisanship to a third term Tuesday, proving again that she's tough to beat after more than three decades in Michigan politics.
Stabenow easily defeated former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra after running unopposed in the Democratic primary and building a fundraising advantage that allowed her to lock up commercial air time, which proved even more valuable after the candidates failed to agree on debates.
"It certainly is always helpful to not have a primary so that you can focus your efforts and resources on the general election," Stabenow said in a Tuesday night telephone interview with The Associated Press. "My work in the Senate getting concrete things done, though, was probably most important such as the bipartisan coalition I put together on the farm bill when nothing was getting done bipartisan."
Stabenow's campaign relied heavily on her role as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and touted how she won Senate approval of a five-year food and farm bill with a provision making growers of specialty crops such as Michigan cherries eligible for federal crop insurance.
Hoekstra had questioned her cooperation and leadership abilities after the farm bill got hung up in the Republican-controlled House. But the Michigan Farm Bureau, which usually leans toward the GOP, gave her a prized endorsement.
Domination of the air waves became crucial when the two campaigns couldn't agree on televised debates. Stabenow insisted on two debates to be shown on public television and Hoekstra argued for as many as six running on network TV. The campaigns pointed fingers at each other when negotiations broke down.
Stabenow enjoyed a huge advantage among women voters Tuesday, but also was supported by a majority of men, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for AP and television networks.
Her support was particularly strong among voters under age 40 but she carried every age group except those over 65, who were evenly divided.
"I voted for her before," said Rodney Allen, a 41-year-old information technology engineer from Wayne County's Canton Township. "She's done a good job."
Hoekstra drew criticism early in the campaign for a pre-Super Bowl commercial that featured a young Asian woman talking in broken English about China taking away American jobs, which even some Republicans said was racially insensitive.