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In 6th Congressional District, Newcomer Looks for Upset

Tom Arthur/Wikicommons

For the last 28 years Republican Fred Upton has represented Southwest Michigan in the U.S. House. But Democrat Paul Clements says he thinks voters are ready for a change. 

Upton says he recognizes that people are upset with dysfunction and partisanship in Congress. But the Saint Joseph Republican says he has always worked with members of both parties to pursue common-sense solutions.

"I’ve been bipartisan from day one in the Congress. You know when I was elected in the Congress, for my life time Republicans were never in the majority and I said you know if I want to get something done I’ve got to work with the “D’s” and I did. Today as chairman of the oldest committee in the House, very proud of the record: 75 bills we’ve passed on the House floor, every single one has had Democrat support, 25 have been signed into law. Issues from dealing with Ebola, to 21st century cures, to roads and highways. I’m there part of the productive process of getting things done.”

Credit WMUK
Fred Upton


Upton says he changed the rules of the Energy and Commerce Committee to emphasize bi-partisanship. But his Democratic opponent, Paul Clements, says Upton has changed over his years in the House. The Western Michigan University political science professor says while Upton’s views may have at one time been considered moderate, over time the Congressman shifted to the right.

“If you look at the statistics, he’s lined up more and more with his own party, up to 96% in the last year. He’s no longer representing the people of Southwest Michigan. He doesn’t have a positive vision for how we can grow our economy. He’s part of what’s become a broken Congress, and I think that the voters are figuring this out.”

Clements has criticized Upton’s votes on shutting down the government last year and suing President Obama as playing to the base of the Republican Party. And Clements says Upton’s shift on climate change has been dramatic.

Credit WMUK
Paul Clements

"He used to say that we need to take action on climate change. That we need to control greenhouse gasses. Then he got to be chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the most powerful committee in Congress with regard to climate policy. He did a 180-degree turn around. He passed a bill through the House of Representatives to remove the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, which he had been promoting just the year before. And now he says he doesn’t believe the climate science about it being caused by humans.”

Clements says a transition to clean energy won’t happen overnight. But he says it is an area which can support manufacturing jobs that pay well. Upton says he supports an “all of the above” energy policy that includes renewables, along with nuclear and clean coal. But Upton says the charge that he has changed his position on climate change is not accurate.

“Climate is changing, it always changes. I’ve not said that we’ve not had climate change. And I’ve not said that it was man made and then changed my mind to say that it’s not man made. I’ve said that that’s not really for me to determine.”

Upton says reports that carbon emissions are down are good news. But he says Congress has to consider what additional energy costs will mean for families and businesses, and weigh that against the potential benefit. Upton says if other countries are not also reducing emissions, the benefit will be minimal. Upton had the closest race of his political career in 2012, but still won 55% of the vote against Democrat Mike O’Brien. The top of the ticket was more favorable to Democrats two years with ago with President Obama winning the state comfortably. Clements says O’Brien was a good candidate, but started his campaign too late. And Clements has raised much more money than any previous Democrat running in the Sixth District.

“So we’re running a serious, professional campaign to let people know who I am, what I stand for. To hold Congressman Upton accountable for the bad decisions that he’s made. And we haven’t seen that before now. So I’m optimistic.”

In addition to the money he has raised, the May Day Super Pac has put over $2-million into the race. The group says it wants to change the way political campaigns are funded. Upton says he doesn’t take any campaign lightly. The Republican Congressman says the only two ways to run are “unopposed” or “full speed ahead.” Upton spoke with WMUK shortly after the MayDay Super Pac announced it’s initial $1.5-million entry in the Sixth District.

"We didn’t expect to see a one-and-a-half-million dollar Super Pac come in the last two weeks against us, they’re spending a ton of money, it’s all negative. This is why people get upset about negative campaigns. They are negative. Our message is positive.”

Upton says he expects to get more help from the top of the ticket this year with Republican Governor Rick Snyder running for re-election. There has not been any independent polling in the race, but the Clements campaign released a survey that it paid for showing him within four points of Upton. But a spokesman for the Upton campaign told the Saint Joseph Benton Harbor Herald Palladium that their internal polling shows Upton leading by double digits. Two other candidates, Libertarian Erwin Haas and Green Party candidate John Lawrence are also on the ballot in the Sixth Congressional District.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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