Stabenow highlighted her bipartisan achievements and experience amid divisiveness in Washington while criticizing James' support for President Donald Trump's agenda. James, a black combat veteran and businessman whom Trump has called "a star," faulted Stabenow as ineffective and too liberal while asking voters to make a leadership change.
The 68-year-old Stabenow, of Lansing, was first elected to the Senate in 2000 by defeating an incumbent and she easily withstood challenges in 2006 and 2012. She consistently led the lesser-known James in polls since his primary victory and kept her message positive in TV ads.
Michigan Republicans have held a Senate seat just once in 40 years.
Stabenow, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, emphasized her ability to shape farming legislation. She also said she stood up to Trump's unsuccessful efforts to slash federal spending on the Great Lakes and sponsored a new law outlawing so-called gag rules that prohibited pharmacists from telling consumers when they could save on prescriptions by paying cash instead of using insurance.
James, of Farmington Hills, flew helicopters in the Iraq War before returning to Michigan to help run his family's automotive logistics company in Detroit. He portrayed himself as a mender of Washington's partisan divide and as someone who could broaden Republicans' appeal to minorities and millennials.
Though Trump won the state two years ago and the 37-year-old James excited the GOP base, Senate Republicans and outside groups did not prioritize the Michigan race this cycle and focused on other states seen as key to determining control of the Senate. James did raise more money than Stabenow in the final months of the campaign.