Lena Epstein, a 35-year-old businesswoman who served as co-chair of President Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan, raised over $100,000 less than 24 hours after announcing her bid for the Senate, according to multiple sources close to the campaign.
“Politicians have failed us, and Michigan citizens are looking for another way,” Epstein said in a press release Monday. “Michigan spoke loud and clear in the last election. We want an outsider with business leadership skills.”
Epstein is the general manager of Michigan-based Vesco Oil, a distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants with more than 200 employees and an annual revenue topping $175 million.
While Epstein was a fixture on local television and radio during the 2016 presidential campaign, she still lacks statewide name recognition. Relative anonymity outside Oakland County GOP circles adds significance to her $100,000 day-one fundraising total. Her announcement this far ahead of August 2018 is a sign that she recognizes the need to get her name out and into the public.
“I was proud to serve as Trump co-chairman in Michigan and helped turn the state red for the first time in almost 30 years,” Epstein told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an exclusive interview. “We put together a strong organization that inspired the people of Michigan to elect a conservative outsider with business experience.”
Epstein, who is likely to face a competitive field of Republicans, hopes to portray herself as the business-minded, conservative outsider. She also is not going to be shy about her support for the president.
“I support the president and am unapologetic about it,” Epstein told TheDCNF.
“We can, we will, and we must put America first by rebuilding American manufacturing industries, re-negotiating unfair trade deals, and building safer borders,” she said, reflecting some of the same language Trump employed during the 2016 campaign.
The 2018 Republican Senate primary could be a jam-packed field. A deep bench of term-limited state legislators hope to capture the same voters that elected Trump.
Even if Epstein is able to capture the nomination, she would face Democrat Debbie Stabenow, a popular three-term Senator. Stabenow was first elected in 2000 and has successfully beat back Republican attempts to take the seat. Recent Senate elections in Michigan have favored Democrats, even as Republicans dominated state politics and congressional seats.
In 2012, Stabenow defeated former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra by nearly one million votes (58 percent to 39 percent). In 2014, Democrat Gary Peters defeated Republican candidate Terry Lynn Land by 13 points to capture Michigan’s other Senate seat. He accomplished this even though Republicans held the governorship and other offices down ballot.
Stabenow enjoys huge support from donors in the Metro-Detroit area. It would take a compelling candidate to convince Republican donors to come back on board after the disappointing losses in 2012 and 2014.
When asked why donors should trust her to do what more seasoned candidates could not do — beat Stabenow — Epstein pointed to her work on the Trump campaign and the historical nature of his win in the Mitten State.
“I was the co-chairman of the Trump campaign that was the first presidential campaign to win Michigan in thirty years,” she said.
Epstein earned a bachelor’s degree in economics (cum laude) from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
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