Hill Harper, an actor best known for his work on the television series “The Good Doctor” and “CSI: NY,” announced a bid Monday for a U.S. Senate seat from Michigan, entering a crowded Democratic primary that has been dominated by Rep. Elissa Slotkin.
In media interviews, Harper, a first-time political candidate, pledged to run to Slotkin’s left, calling himself “the most progressive candidate” in the field.
“I believe our government should work for the people, be a force for good and protect our freedoms, and that won’t happen if we keep electing the same type of people to office,” Harper said in an announcement video. “That’s why I’m running for the United States Senate, to represent Michigan.”
A campaign website lists his areas of focus as “universal healthcare,” “end the filibuster,” “climate justice” and “jobs and economic dignity.”
Harper, 57, is an Iowa native who has said he moved to Detroit in 2018. In addition to his acting, he has written advice books and owns a coffee shop in Detroit.
Harper became the sixth Democratic candidate to enter the race to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Stabenow announced in January that she would not seek a fifth term next year in the battleground state.
If elected, Harper, who is Black, would join a Senate that has only three Black members: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). There are no Black women in the Senate, but several are running in 2024.
Harper told the Detroit News that he would seek to provide “real people-powered representation over big-donor, establishment representation.”
“Without energized, bold leadership in the U.S. Senate, our state will continue to be held back from achieving its full potential,” Harper said.
While Harper has not sought elected office before, he has spent time on the campaign trail as a celebrity surrogate for then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, his Harvard Law School classmate, with whom he also played basketball. Obama later appointed Harper, a thyroid cancer survivor, to the President’s Cancer Panel.
Harper faces an uphill battle against Slotkin, a three-term congresswoman who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018 and is a former CIA analyst.
Slotkin has also proved to be a formidable fundraiser. Her campaign said she has raised $5.8 million and had about $3.6 million in the bank as of June 30, the close of the last fundraising quarter.
Slotkin, who entered the Senate race in February, positioned herself as a moderate, rejecting stances and rhetoric adopted by the far left while championing Democratic principles such as abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons.
Other Democrats in the field include business executive Nasser Beydoun, lawyer Zack Burns, former state representative Leslie Love and Michigan State Board of Education president Pamela Pugh.
Michigan will be among the battleground states Democrats must defend next year if they hope to maintain control of the Senate.
Republicans who have entered the race include State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, former Berrien County commissioner Ezra Scott, lawyer Alexandria Taylor and business executive Michael Hoover.
Others said to be considering bids in the still-evolving GOP field include former Detroit police chief James Craig, former congressmen Mike Rogers and Peter Meijer and New York Stock Exchange executive John Tuttle.
Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.