‘Rebel’ Michigan Senate candidate Clark Durant angling for tea party upset

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Clark Durant is the underdog in the Republican primary in Michigan for the U.S. Senate, but he’s getting a sudden infusion of support from local and national tea party organizations with less than two weeks to go until the election.

“The troops have landed at Normandy and we’re on our way to liberate Paris,” Durant said in an interview with The Daily Caller this week.

Durant is squaring off Aug. 7 against former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the state’s Republican primary. The winner of that race will face Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.

Durant has been an endorsement streak: On Tuesday, the tea party-affiliated FreedomWorks announced support for his candidacy.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce also recently endorsed Durant — a move the candidate called “huge” because the business group has a history of supporting Hoekstra.

And last week, Gary Glenn, another Republican in the primary, dropped out of the race and endorsed Durant after the two held a meeting at a McDonalds and decided to join together to try to defeat Hoekstra. About 40 local tea party organizations followed suit in endorsing Durant.

Reached for comment, Hoekstra’s campaign dismissed the Glenn endorsement, pointing to polls in the past showing the former Republican congressman overwhelmingly leading Durant.

“It wasn’t a surprise to us that two candidates polling in single digits would try to join together two weeks before the primary,” Hoekstra’s spokesman, Greg VanWoerkom, told TheDC. “The recent poll numbers and Durant’s latest fundraising quarter shows that he is not connecting with the public.”

But Durant — who describes the race as an “outsider rebel against the old establishment career politician” — argues he could pull off a victory with just days to go. He’s going on the air across the state hitting Hoekstra, especially for his years in Washington.

“Pete and Debbie are very much alike,” Durant told TheDC, making one of his central arguments against Hoekstra.

“They have both voted time, time, time, time and time again — that’s five times — to increase the debt ceiling,” he said, arguing both have “put our country at risk.”

Durant, the co-founder of the independent Cornerstone Schools, says he’s the outsider in the race, though he isn’t exactly new to politics.

In the 1980s, he was part of the Republican National Committee Platform Committee and was later nominated by President Reagan to serve on the board of the Legal Services Corporation. In 1988, he was a national co-chairman of Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign. And in 1990, he lost a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Durant argues there’s a “difference” between his political experience and Hoekstra’s. “It’s never been a profession to me,” he said. “I’ve gone to serve.”

“I’m challenging Pete because Pete and Debbie have consistently voted for things that make harder for the private economy to thrive, make it more burdensome for the private economy to create jobs,” he said. “And that message is resonating, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Durant also argues that he can draw independents and Democrats, declaring: “I am Debbie’s worst nightmare. She’s going to have to spend a lot to secure her own base.”

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