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'Michigan Matters' Exclusive: Michigan's Red Hot U.S Senate Race Under A Microscope!

By Carol Cain
CBS 62

U.S. Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra admitted regret over his controversial Super Bowl commercial intended to bash Sen. Debbie Stabenow but ended up backfiring on him with its surprisingly negative racial stereotyping.

WATCH ONLINE: Michigan Matters: GOP Senate Candidates

Hoekstra, a former business executive and U.S. Congressman from Grand Rapids who has a huge lead in most polls in the Republican race for Senate in Michigan's Aug 7 primary, hopes folks will instead look at his record. He mentioned being the guy who oversaw the reinvention of the U.S.'s flawed intelligence community after the horrific 9-11 attacks.

Hoekstra appeared with Clark Durant and Randy Hekman on a "Michigan Matters" exclusive as the three Republicans talked of their respective bids to win the primary for the right to take on Stabenow in November's general election.

That U.S. Senate contest promises to be a barn burner with the country tuning in during the final 100 day stretch of this historic 2012 election season as barrels of cash are projected to be poured into the race.

Speaking of money, Durant, a Grosse Pointe businessman, said recent media reports about his pay at Cornerstone Schools which topped $500,000 a year -- are flat out inaccurate. He also detailed more about his history with the innovative school on Detroit's east side.

Durant said he is the outside-the-beltway candidate who knows how to fix things and is the alternative to voters interested in real change in Washington.

Hekman, a distant third in the polls, is a Navy veteran and former prosecutor and juvenile court judge who hails from Grand Rapids. He took the high road and refused to criticize his Republican competitors – or even Stabenow – adding God inspired him to run.

Despite some bumps in his road -- including Hoekstra's entrance in the field after first telling Hekman he was not -- Hekman has stayed the course despite the challenge.

Durant, who ran for U.S. Senate in 1990 losing the nomination to current Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said recent negative stories about his Cornerstone pay, only reinforces how concerned the Democrats are about him.

"I am closing the gap and a recent Rasmussen poll shows I am down by only 9 points (against Stabenow)," said Durant. "The Democrats are trying to get rid of me. They'd rather go up against Hoekstra than an outsider who will take them on on things like jobs and regulation."

Hekman, father of 12 children (ages 19 to 40) also talked how his campaign differed. "We have put 70,000 miles on our car," said Hekman, talking how he and wife, Marcia, who has been alongside him, have approached things on the campaign trail.

Hekman family
Hekman family (credit: Randy Hekman)

Marcia Hekman created an election video "Sweeter by the Dozen" posted on YouTube about their family.

"Our nation is heading over the cliff and we have to do something about it," Hekman said.

Hekman admitted he and the two GOP candidates would likely vote the same on things in Washington but he offered a difference in ideology. "It's more than just politics. We need to get to the heart of the people. And that is what is wrong in Washington. We need to work together," Hekman said. "God wants us in this thing to help bring healing to the country," Hekman said.

When asked about money – the mother's milk of politics -- Hekman admitted: "I was raising good money until Hoekstra got in." Hekman said he would not have entered if Hoekstra had said he intended to when they first discussed it.

After running for governor in 2010 (coming in second to businessman ), Hoekstra said he and his family were battle weary and couldn't fathom the idea of another run for office.

"I kept hearing from people," Hoekstra added. "I looked around and saw what was going on. The voting record of Stabenow. The high unemployment and the devastating economy."

"And the end of the day, Diane (his wife) and I reflected and we decided to get in," said Hoketra, adding he expects to win in November.

Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of "Michigan Matters"airing 11:30 a.m Sundays on CBS 62. You can reach her at Maria Benjamin contributed to this report.

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