The volume of Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-Mich.) criticism of former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R-Mich.) for “ignoring” the college student loan debt issue will be ramped up to a new decibel level during a joint appearance with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in Michigan on July 18.
Land, the Michigan Republican Party’s candidate to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D), told MLive.com, “The fact that these students have huge loans is not fair, we need to work on that and to make sure it works for all of the students.”
That is not good enough for Peters.
The Detroit-area congressman wants Land to either endorse or reject Warren’s proposal to allow people burdened with college debt to renegotiate their student loans.
“Michigan students and their families deserve to hear from both candidates about where they stand on the issues. My opponent’s silence on her Party’s efforts to block common-sense student loan reform is unacceptable, and that’s why town-hall debates are so critical to this race and the future for Michigan,” Peters said.
Senate Republicans blocked Warren’s proposal, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, in June with a filibuster.
“We made the choice clear: billionaires or students. People who have already made it big or people who are still trying to get a fair shot,” Warren wrote in her blog the day after the filibuster. “At this point, most Republicans want us to quiet down and fade away. I think it is time to come back louder than ever.”
The Peters-Land race for Senate is one that Democrats and Republicans are watching. Democrats are nervous. They never really loved Peters. At best he was an unknown commodity.
At worst, he is a former investment banker who embodies everything populist Democrats, like Elizabeth Warren, don’t like.
Top Democrats actually tried to recruit retired Miami Heat forward Shane Battier to run for the Senate seat. Their proposal was rejected, and Peters is running alone without a primary opponent.
Land, on the other hand, is a very well-known commodity in Michigan. She won rave reviews for her work as Michigan secretary of state. Her picture was everywhere Michigan residents looked.
There probably is no platform in the state’s bureaucracy that touches more people than the secretary of state, an office that is responsible for putting a license plate on every vehicle on the roads and waterways of Michigan, as well as a driver’s license in the wallets of the people who drive those boats, cars, trucks and motorcycles.
However, her Senate campaign seems to have turned off as many voters as Land won over while serving as Michigan’s secretary of State.
In the latest Real Clear Politics polling average, Peters has a 5.6-point advantage on Land.
Republicans think this Michigan Senate seat is one they can capture even though Michigan has been leaning to the blue side of the political color spectrum for decades. Barack Obama won here in 2008 and 2012.
Still, the state GOP is hoping if nothing else, Land will be able to ride the coattails of Gov. Rick Snyder, who has a healthy lead in the polls going into November.
Democrats certainly are not giving up and have to be more than pleasantly surprised by Peters’ staying power and ability to campaign to a tie with someone who was one of Michigan’s more popular politicians.
But in order to win in 2014, Democrats know they have to win the minds of new voters and convince them that it will be worth their time to go to the polls the first Tuesday of November.
It is issues like student debt that Democrats are hoping to use to mobilize young voters in November. The possibility of refinancing student loans will resonate with tens of thousands of young Michigan voters and possibly with their parents, as well.
Student loan debt, which has risen 20 percent to $1.2 trillion between 2011 and 2013 — surpassing every other form of non-mortgage debt — is becoming increasingly expensive, CBS News reported.
People paying off student loans got hit hard July 1. Interest rates on undergraduate Stafford loans climbed that day to 4.66 percent from 3.86 percent in 2013. That affected subsidized and unsubsidized borrowing.
A Project on Student Debt report shows Michigan ranks in the top 10 of states with the highest average student loan debt. In Michigan, the average student loan debt among those who borrow to get a bachelor’s degree is nearly $29,000 and 62 percent of Michigan students have debt when they graduate.
Warren’s proposal, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, would allow a borrower with $29,000 in public loans at a 7 percent interest rate to save over $5,400 in interest payments over ten years. A borrower with $100,000 in private loans at a 14 percent interest rate would save nearly $155,000 in interest payments over twenty years.
Peters, according to his campaign, led efforts in 2012 to stop student loan interest rates from doubling. In addition, he is the author of the bipartisan Fair Student Credit Act, which would allow for credit score forgiveness for some students who default on their loans.
“Colleen (Peters’ wife) and I know how the expenses of higher education add up with our oldest daughter in college now. Michigan’s future and our economy depends on the success of our kids and grandkids and we need to make sure we’re not setting them back without reforming the student loan system,” said Peters.