Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein announced Monday that she will run for U.S. Senate in 2018, saying Michigan is ready for another outsider with business experience after its voters favored Donald Trump in the presidential election.
Epstein's family owns Vesco Oil Corp., a large distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. A relative political newcomer who has not held elective office, she was a co-chair of Trump's Michigan campaign last year and said she will "take the fight directly to" Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who is expected to seek a fourth term and who coasted to re-election in 2006 and 2012.
"Politicians have failed us, and Michigan citizens are looking for another way," Epstein, 35, said in a statement. "Michigan spoke loud and clear in the last election — we want an outsider with business leadership skills who can inspire the people of Michigan with a bright vision for the future.
I will speak for those who have not been spoken for. I will represent those who know, deep down, that their government has failed them and their families."
Epstein, a third-generation co-owner of Vesco who helps manage the business, is the first Republican to enter the race. It is unclear to what extent she could spend her own money on the campaign.
She has a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a master's of business administration from the University of Michigan. Her campaign website describes her as a sought-after mentor and motivational speaker. It features a video of her positive comments about Trump and the presidential race on political TV shows, which has allowed her to increase her profile.
She said people want greater job opportunities, safer borders, steady home values and to see America invest in infrastructure and become the world's manufacturing hub once again.
Epstein said in her statement that Stabenow "has failed the people of Michigan after almost two decades in Washington with no major accomplishments."
Stabenow spokesman Matt Williams said she is "focused on doing her job and what is best for Michigan," whether it is protecting the Great Lakes or lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Epstein, of Bloomfield Hills, to the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board in 2012. She also serves on the boards of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit Historical Society and the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. John Yob, a top GOP political consultant, is advising her campaign.
Since Trump took office, Stabenow, 67, has opposed his proposed cut in Great Lakes funding and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court while saying a modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico — which Trump intends to renegotiate — is "long overdue." Her campaign had $4.3 million in the bank as of March 31, according to Federal Election Commission records.