Ex-Rep. Hoekstra wins Michigan's Republican Senate primary

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra has won Michigan's Republican Senate primary and will move on to face Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in the general election.

Hoekstra led businessman Clark Durant (R) by 54 to 33 percent, with 36 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race.

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The former congressman started out the race as the clear front-runner, well known statewide after an unsuccessful run for governor two years ago and with a strong political base in his old congressional district in Western Michigan, the most conservative part of the state.

Durant proved a strong fundraiser and rallied some Tea Partiers, who were unhappy with Hoekstra’s support of the Wall Street bailout and some other issues, to his side, but he was never able to overcome Hoekstra’s initial support.

A few of Hoekstra’s missteps could haunt him in the general election. A campaign ad he ran featuring an Asian-American actress speaking in broken English was widely criticized as racist, and he was caught on tape questioning whether President Obama was born in the United States.

Stabenow starts off as the heavy favorite in the general election. She holds a double-digit lead in recent polls and has a big cash advantage, with more than $4.5 million in the bank to $1 million for Hoekstra as of the last campaign report filing in mid-July.

Republicans also have enough other Senate targets that unless Obama collapses in Michigan or Stabenow slips up in a big way, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP outside groups are unlikely to target her in the Democratic-leaning state.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) congratulated Hoekstra on his win.

"This has been a spirited primary but I'm pleased to congratulate Pete Hoekstra on his victory tonight and look forward to supporting his campaign in the months ahead," Cornyn said in a statement. "This November, Michiganders will have a very clear choice between continuing down the path of more reckless government spending, higher taxes, failed job growth and a record debt, or electing a common-sense, fiscally-responsible and proven leader like Pete Hoekstra who will focus on jobs first and foremost."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly fired back, detailing their line of attack on the former congressman.

"Congressman turned lobbyist Pete Hoekstra has spent his entire campaign pushing extreme Tea Party policies that would devastate Michigan’s middle-class and only benefit the same special interests that are paying his salary at a Washington, DC lobbying firm," DSCC spokesman Shripal Shah said in a statement. "Congressman Hoekstra's agenda would cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires, Big Oil, and corporations that ship jobs overseas while privatizing Medicare and Social Security for the rest of us.

"Hoekstra's extreme agenda might make him a perfect influence peddler in Washington, but it would make him a terrible Senator for Michigan’s middle-class."

—This post was updated at 10:20 p.m.