Senator Spencer Abraham
In 1994, Abraham was the first Republican elected to the Senate from Michigan in 22 years. Since then he has made a name for himself on immigration, technology, tax cuts, conservative social issues and, more recently, a Republican Senate proposal for prescription drug coverage.
As a member and later chairman of the immigration subcommittee, Abraham fought to increase the number of skilled workers allowed into the country. His largely successful efforts to increase the number of visas available for skilled immigrants have won him allies and strong financial backing from high-tech businesses. An ability to build a coalition served him well on an issue not traditionally backed by Republicans.
The freshman Senator also emerged as a leader in tax reform. During Bob Dole's bid for president, Abraham was one of the architects of his plan to slash the federal income tax by 15 percent.
These issues, however, were of little consequence to Michigan voters and his voter satisfaction ratings slumped, giving the Democratic party an inkling that his seat was vulnerable.
This year, after his rival Debbie Stabenow made it a campaign issue, Abraham turned his attention to health care, and joined seven other Republican Senators in presenting a bill for prescription drug coverage.
The Republican Senate proposal relies on private insurers to offer discounted prescriptions to seniors who would pay a $35 annual fee. There would be no immediate benefits for prescription drugs, however, but lower and middle-income seniors would get help after paying a certain amount out of pocket. Low-income seniors (under $16,699) would get coverage after spending $1,200 on prescriptions, seniors earning up to $33,399 would pay up to $2,500 before getting the rest of their prescriptions for free, and those earning up to $100,000 would pay up to $5,000.
Abraham was an unusual candidate when he ran in 1994. He had spent most of his career working for Republican campaigns and issues, but never running for office himself.
The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Abraham was raised in East Lansing, the home of Michigan State University. Both he and Stabenow graduated from there. His mother, Julie, headed the local GOP.
After earning a Harvard Law degree, Abraham worked as a pollster, a part-time law professor, as the state GOP chair, a top aide for Vice President Dan Quayle and co-chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Only when he lost a bid to become the Republican National Committee chairman to Haley Barbour did he decide to return to Michigan for a run for Senate in 1993. Running as a straightforward conservative, Abraham beat Lansing Congressman Bob Carr 52 to 43 percent.
Abraham is 48 years old and lives in Auburn Hills with his wife Jane and three children.