Lena Epstein is bold. A political newbie with no electoral experience, she’s hoping to ride the tailwinds of Donald Trump’s surprise Michigan 2016 win. On Monday, Epstein declared her candidacy against incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat elected in 2000 after stints in the state legislature and U.S. House. Epstein was co-chair of the Trump for President campaign in Michigan, helping flip the state Red in a surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton.
“Politicians have failed us, and Michigan citizens are looking for another way,” Epstein said as she launched her campaign. “Michigan spoke loud and clear in the last election — we want an outsider with business leadership skills who can inspire the people of Michigan with a bright vision for the future. I will speak for those who have not been spoken for. I will represent those who know, deep down, that their government has failed them and their families. I will take the fight directly to Debbie Stabenow because she has failed the people of Michigan after almost two decades in Washington with no major accomplishments. Twenty years of nothing is more than enough. Michigan deserves better.”
Today is Epstein’s 36th birthday. Though she’s on the older end of the generation, that still makes her a Millennial (experts place our generation’s start at 1980 — Epstein was born in 1981). I’ve gotten to know Epstein as a friend this year after interviewing her for a profile. Though she boasts an Ivy League education as a Harvard graduate, Epstein returned home. She’s a a third-generation, co-owner of Southfield, Michigan-based Vesco Oil Corporation, one of the largest distributors of automotive and industrial lubricants and supporting services in the country. A certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE), the company has more than 200 employees and annual revenue exceeding $175 million.
“Nothing makes you more humble than the Midwest values of the Great Lakes State,” Epstein told Bold. “There is so much negative narrative about Michigan and Detroit in the national media — a truly untrue and unfair narrative. Instead of running from the problems of my home region, I wanted to come back and be a part of the change. Have a positive impact on that change — shape that change. I want to be a part of the answers, not the problems. I’ve always wanted to come back.”
Besides her ties to the White House, Epstein also worked closely in Michigan with Ronna Romney McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and the new chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Romney McDaniel is the niece of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who broke with her uncle to back Trump’s bid.
“As Michael Moore put it earlier this summer, the Rust Belt voters in this election were going to, and ultimately did, throw ‘the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them,'” Epstein said. “Republicans have an opportunity here to truly champion the 99 percent … and their focus will undoubtedly be in relentlessly growing the economy in a way that doesn’t just restore the middle class, but grows it.”