Gary Peters

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Gary Peters
Gary Peters official photo 115th congress.jpg
Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byClaire McCaskill
United States Senator
from Michigan
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with Debbie Stabenow
Preceded byCarl Levin
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byJoe Knollenberg
Succeeded byBrenda Lawrence
Constituency9th district (2009–2013)
14th district (2013–2015)
Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery
In office
April 9, 2003 – August 7, 2007
GovernorJennifer Granholm
Preceded byJim Kipp
Succeeded byScott Bowen
Member of the Michigan Senate
from the 14th district
In office
January 3, 1995 – December 31, 2002
Preceded byJon Cisky
Succeeded byGilda Jacobs
Personal details
Gary Charles Peters

(1958-12-01) December 1, 1958 (age 61)
Pontiac, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Colleen Ochoa
EducationAlma College (BA)
University of Detroit (MBA)
Wayne State University (JD)
Michigan State University (MA)
WebsiteSenate website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1993–2000
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Lieutenant Commander
UnitSupply Officer
United States Navy Reserve
Battles/warsOperation Southern Watch
War on Terror
AwardsNavy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal

Gary Charles Peters Sr. (born December 1, 1958) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Michigan since 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the U.S. Representative for Michigan's 14th congressional district from 2013 to 2015. The district includes the eastern half of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Southfield, and Pontiac. He represented Michigan's 9th congressional district from 2009 to 2013.

Before his election to Congress, Peters served in the United States Navy Reserve, spent 22 years as an investment advisor, and worked briefly in academia. He was elected to the Rochester Hills City Council in 1991 and represented the 14th district in the Michigan Senate from 1995 to 2002. He was the Democratic nominee for Michigan Attorney General in 2002, narrowly losing to Republican Mike Cox. He was then appointed Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery by Governor Jennifer Granholm, serving from 2003 to 2008, when he resigned to run for Congress.

In 2014, Peters was elected to the United States Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic incumbent Carl Levin.[1] He was unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeated Republican Terri Lynn Land in the general election. He was the only non-incumbent Democrat to win a Senate election in 2014.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Peters was born December 1, 1958, in Pontiac, Michigan,[4] where he grew up. He is the son of Madeleine A. (née Vignier) and Herbert Garrett Peters, a historian and statistician.[5][6] His mother was a French war bride and his father was American.[7] He graduated from Rochester High School in 1976 and Alma College in 1980. He later received an M.B.A. degree from the University of Detroit in 1984. Peters also holds a J.D. degree from Wayne State University and an M.A. degree in philosophy from Michigan State University.[8]

Military career[edit]

Peters joined the United States Navy Reserve in 1993 at age 34.[9] He served for more than 10 years in units at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, including Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 26.[9] During his Navy service, Peters earned the Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist designation and carried out assignments as an assistant supply officer.[9]

Peters' reserve duty included time in the Persian Gulf supporting Operation Southern Watch, and he served overseas again during increased military activity following the September 11 attacks.[9] Peters attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander before leaving the Reserve in 2008; his awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.[9][10] In 2018, he received a diploma from the College of Naval Command and Staff.[11]

Business and academic career[edit]

Peters worked for 22 years as a financial advisor, serving as an assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch from 1980 until 1989, when he joined Paine Webber as a vice president.[12][13][14]

From 2007 to 2008, Peters served as the third Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at Central Michigan University. In that part-time position, he taught one class a semester, plus preparing additional student activities including two policy forums, and developing a journal of Michigan politics and policy, for $65,000 a year.[15] Peters announced his candidacy to run for Congress two months after being hired.[16] Some student and faculty members protested Peters's hiring, saying he could not be objective in the classroom while running for office and that the university job was subsidizing his campaign.[16][17]

Peters also has taught finance at Wayne State and strategic management and business policy courses at Oakland University.[13]

Peters was a senior policy and financial analyst for the Michigan Department of Treasury[18] and served on arbitration panels for the New York Stock Exchange and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Michigan Senate[edit]

Peters served on the Rochester Hills City Council from 1991 to 1993.[19][20]


In November 1994, Peters was elected to the Michigan Senate to represent the Oakland County-based 14th district. He was re-elected in 1998 and served until 2002, due to the state's term limits. Peters was succeeded in the 14th district by Gilda Jacobs.


The 14th district is one of the most diverse state Senate districts—containing nearly every racial, ethnic, and religious group in Michigan. Located in southeastern Oakland County, it includes the cities of Pontiac, Bloomfield Hills, Southfield, and Oak Park.

Peters was chosen by his Democratic colleagues to chair his party's caucus. He was also a member of the Michigan Law Revision Commission and served on the Michigan Sentencing Commission.[21] Both the Michigan State House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Peters which banned any new wells under the state waters of the Great Lakes except in case of a state energy emergency. The bill passed into law without the signature of Governor John Engler.[22]

Committee assignments[edit]

Peters served as the vice chairman of the Senate Finance, Education, Judiciary and Economic Development Committees. He was also a member of the Natural Resources and the Mental Health and Human Services Committee.[21]

2002 statewide elections[edit]

In his final year as a member of the Michigan Senate, Peters was a candidate for governor and later for Attorney General. As the Democratic nominee for attorney general, he lost in November 2002 to Republican Mike Cox by about 5,200 votes—less than a 0.17 percent margin.[23][24] Peters decided not to contest the election results despite reported irregularities. Several mistakes were reportedly found during analysis, including a precinct in Dearborn which recorded Peters with 96 votes when he actually had 396. The race was the closest statewide contest in Michigan since the 1950 gubernatorial race.[25]

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Peters as the Michigan Lottery commissioner on April 9, 2003.[26][27][28]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Peters during the 112th Congress



On August 7, 2007, Peters ended months of speculation by formally announcing he would run against eight-term Republican congressman Joe Knollenberg in the 9th district, which included almost all of Oakland County. Peters resigned as state lottery commissioner to devote his full energy to the campaign.

Knollenberg was considered vulnerable due to an increasing Democratic trend in what was once a classic bastion of suburban conservatism. Knollenberg's opponents in 2002 and 2004 had performed significantly below the Democratic base in the district, but he was nearly defeated in 2006 by Nancy Skinner, a former radio talk-show host who spent virtually no money–the closest a Republican had come to losing the district in almost half a century. This led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target Knollenberg for defeat.

In the 2002 state attorney general race, Peters performed at or above the Democratic base in 72 percent of the 9th district precincts. In his 1998 state Senate campaign, he performed at or above base in 99 percent of the precincts.[29]

Peters won the November 4 election by 33,524 votes, taking 52 percent of the vote to Knollenberg's 43 percent. Barack Obama carried Oakland County by 15 points; roughly two-thirds of Oakland County was in the 9th. Peters was the fourth person and first Democrat to represent the district since its creation in 1933[30] (it had previously been the 17th district from 1933 to 1953, the 18th from 1953 to 1973, the 19th from 1973 to 1983, the 18th from 1983 to 1993, the 11th from 1993 to 2003, and became the 9th in 2003).


In November 2010, Peters defeated challenges by Republican Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski, Libertarian Adam Goodman, Independent Bob Gray, Independent Matthew Kuofie, and Green Douglas Campbell.[31]


Due to the state's population decline, as reflected by the 2010 Federal Census, Michigan lost one congressional district. As a result of the subsequent redistricting of house seats, much of Peters' 9th district, including his home in Bloomfield Hills, was merged with the 12th district, represented by fellow Democrat Sander Levin. The new district retained Peters' district number—the 9th—but geographically was more Levin's district.

In September 2011, Peters opted to run in the newly redrawn 14th district. The district had previously been the 13th district, represented by freshman Democrat Hansen Clarke. The redrawn district is based in Detroit, but contains a large chunk of Peters' old State Senate district and portions of his old congressional district. Indeed, Peters had represented most of the Oakland County portion of the district at one time or another. Due to Detroit's dwindling population, it was no longer possible to keep the district exclusively within Wayne County.

In the August 2012 Democratic primary, Peters defeated Clarke, who had opted to follow most of his constituents into the reconfigured 14th even though his home had been drawn into the reconfigured 13th—the old 14th, and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence. The 14th is a heavily Democratic, 58 percent black-majority district, and Peters was overwhelmingly favored in November. As expected, he bested Republican John Hauler in the general election with 82 percent of the vote. He was the first white congressman to represent a significant portion of Detroit since 1993.


Peters was sworn into his first term in January 2009. During his time in office, he voted for the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus,[32] the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,[33] the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would have established a national emissions trading plan, but was not passed by the full Congress,[34] the Paycheck Fairness Act, also not passed into law,[35] the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,[36] and the DREAM Act[37] to provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants.

Peters worked with the Obama Administration to obtain debt forgiveness for Chrysler.[38] House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said Peters was the "single most effective person" in fighting against the forces that wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt.[39][dead link] In Congress, Peters opposed a plan to provide disaster relief aid, the funds for which would have come from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.[40]

In July 2010, the Michigan Messenger wrote that Peters was "criticizing the leadership of his own party. Peters and three other Democratic legislators ... this week formed the Spending Cuts and Deficit Reduction Working Group and proposed a series of bills to cut spending. Peters’ bill makes cuts in the federal energy budget."[41] "We have been growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of action and talking about specifics and putting those on the table," Peters said. "We’ve been frustrated with both Democratic leadership and Republicans."[42]

Peters allied himself with the Occupy Wall Street movement, making an appearance at Occupy Detroit on November 6, 2011. Speaking to reporters, he said: "It's speculation on Wall Street that we're still paying the price for here, particularly in Detroit that almost brought the auto industry to a collapse because of what we saw on Wall Street. So we put in restrictions, or put in regulations necessary to reign that in, and right now in Washington I’m facing a Republican majority that wants to undo that."[43]

In 2011, Peters was one of 118 house Democrats who signed a letter to the president urging him to support the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a multinational organization that provides health services (including birth control) to women, children and families in over 150 countries.[44]

In 2014, Peters voiced opposition to a Michigan law which prohibits insurers from offering abortion coverage as a standard feature in health plans.[45]


As a Representative, Peters sponsored 37 bills, including:[46]

111th Congress (2009–2010)[edit]

  • H.R. 1500, a bill to expand and make refundable the Child and Dependent Care Credit, introduced March 12, 2009
  • H.R. 1527, a bill to impose a 60% income tax on bonuses exceeding $10,000 paid to employees of businesses in which the federal government has at least 79% ownership of, introduced March 16, 2009
  • H.R. 1957, a bill to replace the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits and the tax deduction for tuition expenses with an income tax credit equal to 50% of tuition and related expenses, up to $10,000 per taxable year, introduced April 2, 2009
  • H.R. 3246, a bill to create and expand programs for developing and improving vehicle technology, introduced July 17, 2009, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as H.R. 1367 and in the 113th Congress as H.R. 1027
  • H.R. 5302, a bill to establish a program to increase access to capital for small businesses, introduced May 13, 2009
  • H.R. 5337, a bill to make it a crime to create, sell, distribute, or offer material containing extreme animal cruelty, which the bill defines, introduced May 18, 2010
  • H.R. 5780, a bill to eliminate tax credits and deductions for oil and natural gas, introduced July 20, 2010

112th Congress (2011–2012)[edit]

  • H.R. 3233, a bill to exclude the value of vehicles used for transportation from the resource limit in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, introduced October 14, 2011
  • H.R. 6078, a bill to increase government-wide prime contract award goals for small businesses and to increase percentage goals for historically underutilized business zones, and small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, introduced June 29, 2012

113th Congress (2013–2014)[edit]

  • H.R. 4057, a bill to allow for the construction of U.S. Customs and Border Protection customs plazas at land ports of entry into the United States, with priority given to those that experience greater traffic, introduced February 11, 2014
  • H.R. 4244, a bill to expand the small employer health insurance tax credits from businesses with 25 employees to 50, to increase the maximum allowance of such credit, to eliminate the requirement that employers contribute the same percentage to health insurance as employees, and to eliminate the cap limiting employer contributions to average premiums in the health insurance exchanges, introduced March 13, 2014
  • H.R. 4941, a bill to designate up to 20 areas as "Promise Zones" and to have these zones receive priority consideration in federal grant programs and initiatives, introduced June 23, 2014
  • H.R. 5045, 5046, 5047, and 5048, a package of veteran bills, introduced July 9, 2014. H.R. 5045 would prohibit the Small Business Administration (SBA) from imposing a guarantee fee on loans from SBA. H.R. 5046 would encourage the development of regulations to protect the financial security of veterans. H.R. 5047 would prohibit the Secretary of Veteran Affairs from altering the accessibility of any veteran's health care based on when he or she last received care from a veteran health care facility. H.R. 5048 would extend, create, and study various programs to reduce the suicide rate among veterans.

Peters was named senior whip for the Democratic caucus in 2013.[47]

Political positions[edit]

In the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy, Peters was ranked the 17th most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate (and the 4th most bipartisan Democrat) during the 115th U.S. Congress.[48]


In March 2017, Peters co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), which made it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.[49][50]


In November 2017, in response to efforts by China to purchase tech companies based in the US, Peters was one of nine senators to cosponsor a bill that would broaden the federal government's ability to prevent foreign purchases of U.S. firms through increasing the strength of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The scope of the CFIUS would be expanded to allow it to review along with possibly decline smaller investments and add additional national security factors for CFIUS to consider including if information about Americans would be exposed as part of transactions or whether the deal would facilitate fraud.[51]


Peters is a gun owner.[52] As of 2010, Peters had a "D" rating from the National Rifle Association.[53]

In the wake of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Peters participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster.[54]

In January 2019, Peters was one of forty senators to introduce the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for the sale or transfer of all firearms. Exceptions to the bill's background check requirement included transfers between members of law enforcement, loaning firearms for either hunting or sporting events on a temporary basis, providing firearms as gifts to members of one's immediate family, firearms being transferred as part of an inheritance, or giving a firearm to another person temporarily for immediate self-defense.[55][56]

U.S. Senate[edit]



In 2014, Peters ran for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Carl Levin.[57] Peters was endorsed by Levin and Senator Debbie Stabenow, and his entrance largely cleared the field of potential Democratic challengers.[58]

Peters' largest independent supporter was the Senate Majority PAC, which spent almost $3.2 million for ads attacking Peters' opponent in the race.[59][60][61][62] In July 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren supported Peters at a campaign fundraising event.[63]

While the campaign was considered competitive early on, various missteps by the campaign of his Republican Party opponent Terri Lynn Land and her reluctance to appear in public benefited the Peters campaign; he had consistent leads in polls late in the campaign.[64][65][66]


Committee assignments[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Peters is married to Colleen Ochoa from Waterford Township, Michigan; they have three children. They reside in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.[68]

According to financial disclosure documents, Peters had assets of between approximately $1.7 million and $6.3 million at the end of 2014.[69] In 2014, Peters' net worth ranked 37th in the Senate.[70]

Peters received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2019.[71]

Peters is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.[72] His ancestor William Garrett served in the Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War alongside General Washington at Valley Forge during the harsh winter of 1777–1778.[73][74]

Electoral history[edit]


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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joe Knollenberg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Sander Levin
Preceded by
John Conyers
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Brenda Lawrence
Party political offices
Preceded by
Carl Levin
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Michigan
(Class 2)

2014, 2020
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Carl Levin
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Michigan
Served alongside: Debbie Stabenow
Preceded by
Claire McCaskill
Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Bill Cassidy