Anti-abortion businessman joins crowded Republican race for Senate in Michigan

Sandy Pensler makes a campaign stop in Detroit in 2018. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By Kyle Kaminski

December 4, 2023

Detroit area multi-millionaire Sandy Pensler is back with another campaign for US Senate, joining nearly a dozen Republican candidates in Michigan ahead of next year’s primary election. 

LANSING—Grosse Pointe Park businessman Sandy Pensler on Friday joined a growing list of nearly a dozen Republican candidates vying for an open US Senate seat in Michigan next year.

Pensler, 67, is the founder of a private investment firm near Detroit and has spent several million dollars of his personal fortune on two failed attempts to get elected to Congress—both in 1992 and most recently in 2018, when he lost the GOP primary for Senate (by over 9 percentage points) to John James. James went on to lose to incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2018 before he was elected to Congress last year to represent Michigan’s 10th District.

“The American experiment is in big trouble. It’s burning,” Pensler said in a video. “I believe we can turn it around but we need to apply basic morals, take responsibility and fight like hell.”

On the campaign trail in 2018, Pensler made it clear that he opposes reproductive rights across the country—even once labeling the precedent set in Roe v. Wade as “tyrannical.” As a businessman, Pensler has also long opposed efforts to increase the minimum wage in Michigan, and has said that former President Donald Trump’s policies were “terrific.”

In a 2018 radio interview, Pensler also labeled the Affordable Care Act as a “disaster” and said that he wouldn’t think twice about repealing the healthcare program if elected to Congress—a decision which would cause an estimated 3 million Michiganders to either be denied healthcare, or potentially lose their healthcare insurance coverage.

Pensler joins a crowded field of Republican candidates that includes former US Reps. Mike Rogers and Peter Meijer, as well as former Detroit Police Chief James Craig—all of whom hope to flip a seat that has been held by Democrats since 2001. On the Democratic side of the race, US Rep. Elissa Slotkin has led a field of candidates that also includes actor Hill Harper.

In addition to Pensler Capital, Pensler also owns an investment group called The Korex Companies, which manufactures detergents and cleaners. In 2018, Pensler said that he contributed nearly $5 million of his own money to jumpstart what became his failed campaign against James.

In his campaign launch video, Pensler said it was time to take “the Senate back from the morons.”

Former President Donald Trump’s potential endorsement in the Senate race could have a large impact in Michigan, where he won in 2016. Trump endorsed James over Pensler in 2018.

In his campaign announcement, Pensler also reportedly indicated that culture war issues will be key to his campaign and suggested he would join other Republicans in attacking and demonizing the transgender community.

Republican attacks on reproductive rights and transgender people have proven to be electoral losers over the past 18 months, but that didn’t stop Pensler from leaning into those fights. 

“We allow men to destroy women’s sports because we fear being canceled by the radical woke fringe,” he said. “We act like cowards who have no common sense and no moral compass.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know: Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin runs for US Senate

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  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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