---- — DETROIT (AP) — Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan rode a fundraising and airtime advantage to a third term Tuesday, easily defeating former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra.
Stabenow ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and raised more than twice as much money as Hoekstra by mid-summer, allowing her to lock up valuable air time for fall television advertising while the former nine-term congressman battled for the GOP nomination.
Domination of the air waves became crucial when the two campaigns failed to agree on arrangements for televised debates. Stabenow insisted on two debates that would be shown on public television and Hoekstra argued for as many as six that would run on network TV. The campaigns pointed fingers at each other when negotiations broke down.
Stabenow enjoyed a huge advantage among women voters Tuesday but also was supported by a majority of men, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.
Her support was particularly strong among voters under age 40 but she carried every age group except those over 65, who were evenly divided.
"I am deeply honored and so grateful to Michigan voters for giving me the opportunity to once again be your voice and to stand up for Michigan," Stabenow said in a Tuesday night statement.
Hoekstra drew criticism early in the campaign for a pre-Super Bowl commercial that featured a young Asian woman talking in broken English about China taking away American jobs, which even some Republicans said was racially insensitive. He later failed to gain traction with a series of Web ads labeling Stabenow "the worst senator."
The ads accused Stabenow of supporting higher taxes and blamed her for Michigan job losses. Hoekstra sought to link Stabenow to President Barack Obama in hopes of capitalizing on voter frustration with the economy, labeling her the "follower-in-chief."
Stabenow didn't run from the president, trumpeting his administration's financial assistance that helped the auto industry stave off bankruptcy. Obama also won the state Tuesday.
The senator portrayed herself as a moderate bipartisan and focused on her role as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She won Senate approval of a five-year food and farm bill with a provision making growers of specialty crops such as Michigan cherries eligible for federal crop insurance.
Hoekstra questioned her cooperation and leadership abilities after the farm bill got hung up in the Republican-controlled House. But the Michigan Farm Bureau, which usually leans toward the GOP, gave her a prized endorsement.
"To have a middle class, to create jobs here, we need to do what we do best — make things and grow things," Stabenow said Tuesday.
Hoekstra, of Holland, turned his sights on the Senate after running unsuccessfully for governor in 2010. He won the primary in a landslide after successfully deflecting claims by charter schools founder Clark Durant, who had tea party backing, that he was too moderate. But he faced a different challenge for the general election, needing support from beyond the conservative Republican base.
He was the runaway winner Tuesday among self-described conservatives but they made up only about one-third of the voters, the exit poll showed. Stabenow won easily among liberals and moderates. A majority of independents and even one in 10 Republicans went with Stabenow.
The 62-year-old Stabenow has three-plus decades of political experience.
In 2006, she received the most votes of any individual candidate in the Michigan with 2,151,087 — or 56.9 percent of the votes cast in her race — to win easily over republican challenger Mike Bouchard. In 2000, she defeated then-incumbent Republican Sen. Spence Abraham by a little more than 1 percentage point.
Stabenow, who grew up in Clare and lives in Lansing, was elected to the state House in 1978, the state Senate in 1990 and the U.S. House in 1996.
She failed to get the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1994, but ran as nominee Howard Wolpe's running mate. She has since been tough to beat.
"I was born and raised here, my family all lives here, and Michigan will always be my home," she said. "We live in an incredible state, and there is no greater privilege than to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate."