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Deborah Ann "Debbie" Stabenow (born April 29, 1950), née Greer, is a Democratic United States Senator from Michiganmarker.

In the 2000 election, Stabenow defeated the Republican incumbent, Senator Spencer Abraham. She is the first female U.S. Senator from Michigan. She and Washingtonmarker's Maria Cantwell were the first women to defeat incumbent elected Senators in a general election, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinoismarker having done so in a primary in 1992. Stabenow was re-elected in 2006.

Early life and career

Stabenow was born in Gladwin, Michiganmarker, to Anna Merle Hallmark and Robert Lee Greer. She grew up in Clare, Michiganmarker, where her father and grandfather owned an auto dealership. She graduated from Clare High School. She received a B.A. from Michigan State Universitymarker in 1972, a M.S.W. magna cum laude from Michigan State University in 1975, and an honorary doctorate degree from Grand Valley State University in 2008.

While in graduate school, Stabenow won her first election, to the Ingham Countymarker Board of Commissioners, a position in which she served from 1975 to 1978. She has also worked as a social worker, and a leadership training consultant. She served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1979 to 1990, where she became the first woman to preside over the House. She also served in the Michigan Senate from 1991 to 1994. In 1994, she made an unsuccessful primary run for Governor of Michigan, after which she was chosen as nominee Congressman Howard Wolpe's running mate, but lost to the incumbent ticket of John Engler and Conie Binsfield.

She was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1996 from Michigan's 8th congressional district and served two terms. She did not seek reelection to the House of Representatives in 2000, but was elected to the U.S. Senate. Stabenow was considered the underdog for much of the Senate race, but rallied in the final weeks of the campaign to unseat Spencer Abraham by a narrow margin. Matthew R. Abel of the Green Party placed third, followed by four other candidates. Abraham's wife Jane was rumored to be a Republican candidate for Stabenow's seat in the 2006 election, but opted out of the race.

Michigan legislature

Stabenow was a leader in the passage of the one of the first laws in the U.S. that required all Michigan children to ride in car seats until age five. She authored a domestic violence law which increased criminal penalties for those committing domestic violence offences. Republican members of the State legislature nicknamed her "D-Stabs" around this time. She was the first woman to preside over the House.

In the Michigan Senate, Stabenow was a leader in the passage of bills including Michigan's property tax cuts and school funding reform, small business reforms, and legislation to protect families and children in the state.

United States Senate

Stabenow is currently a member of the Finance Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with the Budget Committee and the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Previously, she also served on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on Aging.

Stabenow is only the second person from Michigan to have served in both houses of the Michigan State Legislature and in both houses of the United States Congress. The first was Thomas W. Ferry. Stabenow is also the first person to have served as a Michigan state legislator to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate (until enactment of the Seventeenth amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913, U.S. Senators were selected by the state legislature). No former Michigan state legislator had served in the U.S. Senate since 1894, when Francis B. Stockbridge died.

Stabenow introduced S. 2986 in 2002 attempting to move forward a land claims settlement with the Bay Mills Indian Community (Brimley, Michiganmarker) and allow the tribe to develop a casino off-reservation almost away in Port Huron, Michiganmarker. In 1996, the Bay Mills Indians made claims to lands in Michigan including more than in the "Charlotte Beach" area on Michigan's Upper Peninsulamarker.[42753] The claims were rejected by both state and federal court at the time on administrative grounds and have never been officially heard or validated. Nevertheless, then Michigan Governor John Engler, a Republican, entered into a settlement agreement with the Tribe in which the Tribe would agree to extinguish claims to the Charlotte Beach lands in exchange for the right to build a casino in Port Huron.[42754] The tribe has two casinos already. Michigan casino syndicators Marian Ilitch and Michael J. Malik, Sr. are bankrolling the tribe's pursuits. According to records on file with the Federal Election Commission, Ilitch Family members and Malik contributed more than $117,200 toward Stabenow's 2006 re-election — significantly more than they gave to any other federal candidate in either the 2004 or 2006 federal election cycles. Neither Ilitch or Malik contributed to Stabenow's previous campaigns. There have been no allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the Senator and the casino in question has not been built or authorized.

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Stabenow was the first Senator to author legislation that would waive all transportation fees to Americans trapped in Lebanonmarker, so that their deportation back to America would not cost them.

Stabenow became the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate on November 16, 2004, when she was elected by her colleagues to be secretary of the Democratic caucus. As caucus secretary, she assisted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NVmarker) to set the Democrats' agenda and priorities. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was elected Minority Whip, the Democrats' second-ranking spot. In November 2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that Stabenow would leave the caucus secretary position to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, charged with "engag[ing] Democratic Senators and community leaders across the country in an active dialogue".

Following the withdrawal of Tom Daschle as President Barack Obama's nominee as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, the National Organization for Women endorsed Stabenow for the position and urged the president to appoint Stabenow, saying, "Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has long focused on health care as a priority, and with her background as a social worker she is well positioned to take the helm of this agency that is so critical to women and families."

Committee assignments

2006 re-election campaign

Stabenow faced her first re-election in the 2006 election. There were three Republicans who declared their candidacy: Reverend Keith Butler, a former Detroitmarker City Councilman; Dr. Jerry Zandstra, a former director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty; and Michael Bouchard, the Oakland Countymarker sheriff and former state Senate majority leader. Jerry Zandstra failed to be placed on the ballot, due to insufficient certified petition signatures. Michael Bouchard won the Republican primary but was defeated by Stabenow in the general election. Stabenow received 57 percent of the vote while Bouchard received 41 percent.

Political positions

Fairness doctrine

Stabenow has expressed support in regulating talk radio via a measure like the Fairness doctrine. On February 5, 2009, she stated "I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves."

Her support for these measures has been met with concerns about a conflict of interest, given that the primary target is conservative talk radio and that her current husband, Tom Athans, has been an executive at a number of liberal progressive talk radio networks.

Drilling in the Great Lakes

Being a supporter of environmental issues, she authored the first law to ban drilling in the Great Lakesmarker.

On August 31, 2006 Stabenow, along with Senator Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell, announced an agreement that would completely cease Ontariomarker's dumping of solid waste in Michigan within four years. This issue has been an issue in Michigan for the past several years. Previously in the Senate, Stabenow wrote legislation intended to reduce the dumping of Canadian trash into Michigan by requiring machines to search trash being dumped across the border. In July 2006, the Senate unanimously passed a law sponsored by Stabenow requiring the payment of $420 inspection fee for every truckload of Canadian trash being brought into Michigan.

Global warming

On August 10, 2009, Stabenow was reported by The Detroit News as saying "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."[42755].

SGR mechanism

Senator Stabenow has introduced a bill to end the SGR mechanism. In physician payment mechanisms, SGR refers to "sustainable growth rate", used to calculate physician fees under Medicare, where theoretically, these fees would be reduced every year to compensate for an increase in Medicare spending overall. Medical organizations complain of being the only profession in the USA to live under government imposed price controls, controls which in actuality are not enforced. Because most often the US Congress responds to physician organization appeals, last-minute supplementary spending is approved (increasing the actual expenditures) so that no fee reduction occurs. A 21% cut would be due in January 2010.

Personal life

Stabenow was first married to Dennis Stabenow; the couple divorced in 1990. They have two children, Michelle and Todd.

In 2003, Stabenow married Tom Athans, now the executive vice president of Air America. By this marriage, she has a stepdaughter, Gina. On April 2, 2008, the Detroit Free Press reported that Athans had been implicated in a prostitution sting. Stabenow released a statement saying "This is very disturbing and serious. Obviously it's a deeply difficult and personal matter."

She belongs to the Grace United Methodist Church.

Electoral history


  1. 1
  3. [1]
  4. S. 2896
  6. Women's Group Pushes Stabenow for HHS
  8. [2]
  10. "Stabenow Rallies Public In Fight Against Canadian Trash", Stabenow for Senate Press Releases, August 1, 2006
  12. "Sen. Stabenow's Husband Nailed in Prostitution Bust", Washington Post, April 2, 2008

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