Debbie Stabenow

Debbie Stabenow
Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee
Taking office
January 3, 2017
Leader Chuck Schumer (Elect)
Succeeding Chuck Schumer
Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Thad Cochran
United States Senator
from Michigan
Assumed office
January 3, 2001
Serving with Gary Peters
Preceded by Spencer Abraham
Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
In office
January 3, 2011  January 3, 2015
Preceded by Blanche Lincoln
Succeeded by Pat Roberts
Secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference
In office
January 3, 2005  January 3, 2007
Leader Harry Reid
Preceded by Barbara Mikulski
Succeeded by Patty Murray
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1997  January 3, 2001
Preceded by Dick Chrysler
Succeeded by Mike Rogers
Member of the Michigan Senate
from the 24th district
In office
January 12, 1991  January 14, 1994
Preceded by Bill Sederberg
Succeeded by Joe Schwarz
Member of the Michigan House of Representatives
from the 58th district
In office
January 6, 1979  January 12, 1991
Preceded by ???
Succeeded by Dianne Byrum
Personal details
Born Deborah Ann Greer
(1950-04-29) April 29, 1950
Gladwin, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dennis Stabenow (Before 1990)
Tom Athans (2003–2010)
Children 2
1 stepchild
Alma mater Michigan State University (BA, MSW)
Website Senate website

Deborah Ann "Debbie" Greer Stabenow (born April 29, 1950) is the senior United States Senator from Michigan and a member of the Democratic Party. Before her election to the U.S. Senate, she was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Michigan's 8th congressional district from 1997 to 2001. She previously served as a member of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, Michigan House of Representatives, and Michigan Senate.

Stabenow served as Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee 2011-2015. She was re-elected to the seat for a third term in November 2012. She became the state's senior senator upon the retirement of Carl Levin on January 3, 2015. She's served as Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee from 2011 and was elevated to lead it from 2017.

Early life, education, and early career

Stabenow was born in Gladwin, Michigan, the daughter of Anna Merle (née Hallmark) and Robert Lee Greer.[1] She grew up in Clare, Michigan. She graduated from Clare High School, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University in 1972 and a Master of Social Work magna cum laude from Michigan State University in 1975.[2]

Early political career

Ingham County politics

While in graduate school, Stabenow won her first election to public office: the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, a position in which she served from 1975 to 1978.

State legislature

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.

1994 gubernatorial election

In 1994, she ran for Governor of Michigan in the Democratic primary, for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Republican John Engler. However, U.S. Congressman Howard Wolpe defeated her in the primary with a plurality of 35% to Stabenow's 30%. After the primary, Wolpe chose Stabenow as his running mate, and she appeared on the general election ballot as the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.[3] Stabenow failed to become Lieutenant Governor of Michigan as Engler defeated Wolpe 61%-38%.[4]

U.S. House of Representatives

In 1996, she decided to run for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. She challenged incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Dick Chrysler of Michigan's 8th congressional district. She defeated him 54%-44%.[5] In 1998, she won re-election to a second term with 57% of the vote.[6]

U.S. Senate

Stabenow speaks during the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.



She did not seek re-election in 2000 in order to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham. She won the Democratic primary unopposed. She was considered the underdog for much of the Senate race, but rallied in the final weeks. She defeated him 49.5%-48%, a difference of 67,259 votes.[7]


Stabenow was challenged by Republican Michael Bouchard, Oakland County sheriff and former State Senate Majority Leader. Stabenow defeated him 57%-41%.[8]


Stabenow was unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeated Republican nominee Pete Hoekstra, former U.S. representative.[9] Stabenow won 59% to Hoekstra's 38%.


Before her current committee assignments, Senator Stabenow 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. 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 became the third-ranking Democratic Party member in the U.S. Senate on November 16, 2004, when she was elected as secretary of the Democratic caucus. As caucus secretary, she assisted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to set the Democratic agenda and priorities. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was elected Minority Whip, the second-ranking Democratic spot. In November 2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that Stabenow would leave the caucus secretary position to succeed Hillary 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".[10]

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."[11]

Stabenow became the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in 2011, following the defeat of Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln.[12] A controversial item during Stabenow's tenure, has been the renewal and reform of the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) demonstrated his commitment to working on a new five-year Farm Bill by reintroducing 2012's Senate Farm Bill in the new 113th Congress in January 2013. Senator Reid indicated that the Farm Bill is on his top priority list, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow has voiced support for Reid’s move stating, "Majority Leader Reid has demonstrated that the Senate will once again make supporting our nation’s agriculture economy while cutting spending a top priority." [13]

On October 29, 2014, Stabenow introduced the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act (S. 1603; 113th Congress), a bill that would reaffirm the status of lands taken into trust by the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the benefit of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band.[14][15] The bill would clarify that the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band's land trust could not be challenged in court under the Supreme Court decision of Carcieri v. Salazar.[16]

Committee assignments

Political positions

Fairness doctrine

Stabenow has expressed support in regulating talk radio via a measure like the Fairness doctrine.[17] 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."[18] Her support for these measures has been met with criticism about a conflict of interest, given that the primary target is conservative talk radio and that her former husband, Tom Athans, has been an executive at a number of liberal progressive talk radio networks, such as Air America[19]

Drilling in the Great Lakes

She authored the first law to ban drilling in the Great Lakes.

On August 31, 2006, Stabenow, along with Senator Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell, announced an agreement that would completely cease Ontario's dumping of solid waste in Michigan within four years. This 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.[20] 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.[21]

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."[22] However, she has opposed regulation of greenhouse gases, enhanced fuel efficiency standards in California, and greenhouse gas emission reporting standards.[23]

Health care reform

Stabenow supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; she voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[24] and she voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[25] She also sponsored S. 2257: Excellence in Mental Health Act.[26]


Stabenow voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 in December 2011,[27] which included highly controversial provisions drafted by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain in closed session, that allows for the indefinite military detention of American citizens who are deemed potential terrorists and enemies of the state without trial, challenging the general judicial status of "innocent until proven guilty."


In March 2011, the Think Progress website criticized Stabenow for joining “the pro-polluter frenzy sweeping the U.S. Senate, introducing legislation to permanently cripple Clean Air Act rules on global warming pollution. The legislation in question was the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.493), which, according to Think Progress, was “being used as a vehicle for senators who wish to prevent regulation of greenhouse pollution from oil refineries, coal-fired power plants, heavy industry, and other major emitters. Stabenow has added her amendment to three others intended to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of carbon polluters.”[28]

Stabenow's proposed amendment to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions for two years also draw criticism.[29] The amendment would have given “coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources a two year exemption” from rules requiring them to report greenhouse gas emissions.[30] Stabenow defended her position by saying “My amendment is a common-sense approach that allows protections from carbon pollution, determined by scientists and public health experts, to continue being developed while providing businesses the support and incentives they need as they reduce pollution, generate new clean energy technologies and create jobs.”[31]

The Economy

In 2009, Stabenow voted for President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan. In 2008, however, she voted against the bailout proposed by President Bush.[32]

Same Sex Marriage

Stabenow is for the equal rights of the LGBT community in the U.S. On two separate occasions she has voted against the Constitutional Amendment, 2004 and 2006, to define marriage “as between one man and one woman". In 2006, Stabenow also voted NO on the constitutional ban of same sex marriage.


In 2009, Stabenow said, “I have always said that a strong, national fuel-economy standard is what our country needs, not a confusing patch work of different state standards. I am pleased that the Obama administration heeded my call and developed a national standard for our automakers to follow — a clear standard that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil." However, an article from The Washington Independent states that her voting record "tells a different tale."[33] In 2002, she voted against "a proposal that would have forced automakers to create vehicles with fleetwide averages of 40 miles-per-gallon by 2015 — 'a strong, national fuel economy standard'." Also, in June 2007, she voted against a bill that would mandate "fleet-wide averages of 35 mpg by 2020."[33]

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 co-founder of Democracy Radio and former executive vice president of Air America. By this marriage, she has a stepdaughter, Gina. In 2008, Athans said to the police that he had used the internet “to make a date with a prostitute and paid her $150 for sex at a hotel” in Detroit. The news came about after police investigations into an internet-based prostitution ring operating in the hotel questioned Athans.[34] Stabenow and Athans divorced on May 28, 2010, approximately two years after Athans was detained in Troy, Michigan, as part of a prostitution sting.[35]

Stabenow belongs to the Grace United Methodist Church in Lansing Michigan.

Stabenow made a cameo in the 2016 Zack Snyder film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as the Governor of New Jersey, the state in which Gotham City is located in in the DC Extended Universe.[36]

Electoral history

Michigan's 8th Congressional District election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Debbie Stabenow 141,086 53.76%
Republican Dick Chrysler 115,836 44.14%
Libertarian Doug MacDonald 3,811 1.45%
Natural Law Patricia Allen 1,679 0.64%
Write-ins Write-ins 9 0.00%
Michigan's 8th Congressional District election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Debbie Stabenow (incumbent) 125,169 57.41%
Republican Susan Grimes Munsell 84,254 38.64%
Reform John Mangopoulos 4,654 2.13%
Libertarian Ben Steele, III 2,750 1.26%
Natural Law Patricia Rayfield Allen 1,213 0.56%
Michigan U.S. Senate Election 2000[37]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Debbie Stabenow 2,061,952 49.47
Republican Spencer Abraham (Incumbent) 1,994,693 47.86
Green Matthew Abel 37,542 0.90
Libertarian Michael Corliss 29,966 0.72
Reform Mark Forton 26,274 0.63
Constitution John Mangopoulos 11,628 0.28
Natural Law William Quarton 5,630 0.14
Majority 67,259 1.61
Turnout 4,165,685
Democratic gain from Republican Swing -4.02
Michigan U.S. Senate Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Debbie Stabenow (incumbent) 2,151,278 56.9 +7.4
Republican Michael Bouchard 1,559,597 41.3 -6.6
Libertarian Leonard Schwartz 27,012 0.7 0
Green David Sole 23,890 0.6 -0.3
Constitution Dennis FitzSimons 18,341 0.5 +0.2
Majority 591,681 15.6
Turnout 3,780,142
Democratic hold Swing 7%
Michigan U.S. Senate Election 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Debbie Stabenow (incumbent) 2,735,826 58.8% +1.9
Republican Pete Hoekstra 1,767,386 38.0% -3.3
Libertarian Scotty Boman 84,480 1.8% +1.1
Green Harley Mikkelson 27,890 0.6% -
Constitution Richard Matkin 26,038 0.6% +0.1
Natural Law John Litle 11,229 0.2% +0.1
Others Write-in 69 0.0% -
Majority 409,367 8.8%
Turnout 4,652,918
Democratic hold Swing 2%


  1. Deborah Ann (Greer) Stabenow Rootsweb
  2. "US Congress Votes Database: Debbie Stabenow (D)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  3. "MI Governor- D Primary Race - Aug 02, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  4. "MI Governor Race - Nov 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  9. Price, Deb; Hurst, Nathan (July 20, 2011). "Hoekstra: Senate campaign will focus on smaller government, less spending". Detroit News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012.
  10. "Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader". 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  11. Davis, Teddy (February 3, 2009). "Women's Group Pushes Stabenow for HHS". ABC News: The Note. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  12. "Senator Stabenow to Chair Agriculture Committee". Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  13. Riske, Laura (30 January 2013). "Farm Bill a Top Priority for Senate Leader Harry Reid". The National Law Review. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  14. "CBO - S. 1603". Congressional Budget Office. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  15. Cox, Ramsey (19 June 2014). "Senate passes land trust bill for Pottawatomi Indians". The Hill. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  16. "Senate Indian Affairs Committee business meeting and hearing". 19 May 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  17. "Sen. Stabenow wants hearings on radio 'accountability'; talks fairness doctrine". February 5, 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  18. "Politico.Com: Videos". Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  19. "Sen.Stabenow Has A Stake In The'Fairness Doctrine'". Feb 6, 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  21. "Stabenow Rallies Public In Fight Against Canadian Trash", Stabenow for Senate Press Releases, August 1, 2006
  22. "DETNEWS | Weblogs | Henry Payne's Sketchbook". 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  23. "Sen. Stabenow joins the climate action delayers". ThinkProgress. March 31, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  24. "On Passage of the Bill H.R. 3590 (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)". December 24, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  25. "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  26. "What's your position on The Excellence in Mental Health Act". Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  27. "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes >". Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  28. "Sen. Stabenow joins the climate action delayers". Think Progress. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  29. "Michigan Senator Stabenow seeks to delay EPA action on greenhouse gases". Michigan Radio. March 31, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  30. "Debbie Stabenow amendment would block EPA climate regulations". March 30, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  31. "Sen. Debbie Stabenow wants two-year delay on carbon dioxide limits". March 31, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  32. "Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)". The Washington Post. July 25, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  33. 1 2 Lillis, Mike. "Stabenow Tries to Rewrite History". The Washington Independent. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  34. "Sen. Stabenow's husband tells police he had sex with prostitute". The Associated Press. April 2, 2008. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  35. "Stabenow divorced from husband caught with hooker". The Associated Press. December 6, 2010.
  36. "Review: 'Suicide Squad'". Asbury Park Press. 2016-08-05.

Further reading

Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Debbie Stabenow
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Debbie Stabenow.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Dick Chrysler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Mike Rogers
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Carr
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Michigan
(Class 1)

2000, 2006, 2012
Most recent
Preceded by
Barbara Mikulski
Secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference
Succeeded by
Patty Murray
Preceded by
Hillary Clinton
Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee
Succeeded by
Mark Begich
New office Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee
Succeeded by
Joe Manchin
Preceded by
Chuck Schumer
Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee

Taking office 2017
United States Senate
Preceded by
Spencer Abraham
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Michigan
Served alongside: Carl Levin, Gary Peters
Preceded by
Blanche Lincoln
Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Pat Roberts
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Tom Carper
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Maria Cantwell
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