Rep. Bart Stupak (D)
Michigan 1st District
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, commonly known as the UP, is a land apart. Surrounded on three sides by frigid Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan, the UP is no farther north than Montreal or Seattle, but there are places here that have some of the coldest climates in settled parts of North America. The area surrounding Keweenaw County, which juts into Lake Superior, often ranks high in the nation’s heaviest snowfall. “In October, usually, the first snow falls steady on the northland,” writes Dixie Lee Franklin in A Most Superior Land, “whispering teasing promises of more to come”—for six or even eight months more. Far away from any major city, with ground too frozen and stony and a growing season too short for most crops, the Upper Peninsula was explored by French voyagers and missionaries more than 300 years ago but was never thickly settled until prospectors found rich veins of ore here. The mineral veins of the Keweenaw Peninsula produced 13.3 billion pounds of copper. The Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic iron ranges have produced more than one billion tons of iron ore. Starting in the 1840s, immigrants flocked here to work the mines: Irish, Italians, Swedes, Norwegians, miners’ sons from Wales and Cornwall, and most prominently Finns, who must have found this cold land with its lakes and hills much like home. Many were Roman Catholic, and they remain predominantly anti-abortion. Before 1900, the UP was a northern industrial belt, with a few bosses, some absentee overlords, and a workforce disposed to radical ideas and union movements. Timber was another major industry a century ago.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
A major strike in 1913-14 and falling ore prices after World War I—events that would be long forgotten elsewhere—are recalled in the UP as accelerating the copper decline. The UP’s population peaked at 332,000 in 1920. The accessible copper veins were mostly depleted by then, mining iron ore became less labor-intensive, and lumber and farming provided only a few thousand jobs. Other industries have grown since then: Marinette Marine, which builds Coast Guard cutters and military ships just across the state border in Wisconsin, is important to Menominee County. Enstrom Helicopter, founded in Menominee in the 1950s by a lumberman who wanted a helicopter suited for the rugged UP, sells models that are popular overseas and with law enforcement. But in the last half-century, there was great migration to Detroit for auto jobs, and to the West for mining. The UP’s population has hovered around 300,000, rising to 315,000 in 2004. But “Yoopers”—who some say have their own dialect, “Yoopanese”—remain devoted to their land. “The U.P. is really a place of slow, steady economic decline. We actually find it kind of charming,” says local writer Don Hunt.
The 1st Congressional District of Michigan includes the Upper Peninsula and 16 northern counties on the Lower Peninsula: geographically, almost half of all Michigan. Nearly half the people in the district live in the UP, in small towns spread across heavily forested distances. Often-snowbound Marquette, with 21,000 people, is the largest city in the district, followed by the “Soo,” the more vibrant Sault Ste. Marie, with 14,000. The other half lives south of the breathtaking Mackinac Bridge, which connects the two peninsulas. This is a vast area, in sheer size the second-largest district east of the Mississippi, after Maine’s 2nd District, and it has the most shoreline of any district. It is a 490-mile drive from Ironwood at the western end of the UP to the edge of Bay City on the southern tip of Saginaw Bay. The Lower Peninsula counties have two different personalities. On Lake Huron—the sunrise side—are smaller industrial towns and middle-class resorts. On Lake Michigan are affluent resort areas around Petoskey and Charlevoix, long summer places for people from Chicago (this is Ernest Hemingway’s “up in Michigan”). Politically, the UP has long been Democratic, some parts more than others, but it can be contrarian. This is one part of Michigan that has not liked many national Democrats’ environmental and gun control stands. The Lake Michigan shore of the Lower Peninsula is growing fast and heavily Republican; the sunrise side is growing more slowly and is politically marginal. The 1st District voted solidly for Bush in 2000 and 2004, narrowly for Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus in 2002, and 50% for Barack Obama in 2008. But in 2006, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm carried the 1st, winning every county in the UP and 61% farther south in Bay County.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Feb. 29, 1952, Milwaukee, WI .
Education: NW MI Comm. Col., A.A. 1972, Saginaw Valley St. Col., B.S. 1977, Thomas Cooley Law Schl., J.D. 1981.
Family: Married (Laurie); 1 child (1 deceased).
Elected office: MI House of Reps., 1988–90.
Professional Career: Escanaba Police Officer, 1972–73; MI St. Trooper, 1974–84; Practicing atty., 1981–92.
The congressman from the 1st District is Bart Stupak, a Democrat and a “Yooper” from Menominee on the Wisconsin border, just a short jaunt from Green Bay. He was a police officer in Escanaba, then became a Michigan state trooper in 1974 and also earned a law degree. In 1984, he was injured in the line of duty and retired from the force. In 1988, he was elected to the Michigan House, and in 1990, he lost a race for the state Senate. Stupak got into the 1992 U.S. House race when incumbent Republican Bob Davis, who was caught up in the House bank scandal with 878 overdrafts, decided to drop out. In the general election, he beat Republican Philip Ruppe, who had represented the district from 1966 to 1978, 54%-44%.
|Bart Stupak (D)||213,216||(65%)||($1,281,683)|
|Tom Casperson (R)||107,340||(33%)||($236,254)|
|Bart Stupak (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (69%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (68%), 2000 (58%), 1998 (59%), 1996 (71%), 1994 (57%), 1992 (54%)
Stupak’s voting record has been centrist for House Democrats, and usually more conservative than most of them on cultural issues. He is strongly opposed to abortion rights, and spoke out against them at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. In 2003, the House passed a bill he co-sponsored to prohibit cloning, including for the production of embryos intended for research, but the bill stalled in the Senate. In 2006, he supported President Bush’s veto of the bill to expand embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses excess embryos from in vitro fertilization. Stupak has paid fastidious attention to local issues. He claims to be the first elected official to oppose drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes, and he worked on the successful bill to permanently kill it in 2005. He has been a leading Democratic proponent of a measure to crack down on oil price-gouging. In 2007, he helped to organize a Congressional Water Caucus, which he hopes will devise a comprehensive water-use policy for the nation. The House defeated in June 2008 his proposal to approve land exchanges that would have permitted two Indian tribes in Michigan to open urban casinos away from their reservations in the UP.
On Mother’s Day 2000, Stupak suffered a personal tragedy, which for a time raised questions about his political future. His 17-year-old son B.J., a high school football player and class president, killed himself on the morning after his prom. In coping with the tragedy, Stupak and his wife, Laurie, focused on their son’s use of Accutane, a prescription drug for acne treatment that can have adverse psychological effects, including suicide attempts. Stupak held a hearing on the use of Accutane, and in December 2004, the Food and Drug Administration tightened restrictions on the drug, including creation of a mandatory registry for individuals who dispense or use it.
In 2007, Stupak took over as an aggressive chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee at Energy and Commerce, which has long been a platform for then-committee chairman Rep. John Dingell, a Democratic home-state ally. He held hearings on several Democratic staples, including gas price-gouging, energy futures trading, and FDA regulation. Under pressure from Stupak, the FDA in 2008 reversed its plan to close seven field offices, including one in Michigan. “You have this administration turning a blind eye to corporate America,” Stupak said.
In 2000, Stupak faced a vigorous challenge from Chuck Yob, a Republican national committeeman, who criticized Stupak for taking more than 80% of his campaign money from special-interest groups. The NRA, an influential force in his district, endorsed Yob. Stupak argued that voters favored commonsense gun laws, and voters seemed to be in no mood for controversy in light of Stupak’s family tragedy that year. He won 58%-40%, losing only one county. He hasn’t had a competitive race since. Republicans hope to win the seat if Stupak does not run, but there is little chance as long as he does. In 2008, Republicans ran state Rep. Tom Casperson. But 2008 was a tough year for Republicans in Michigan, and Casperson never elevated the contest to make his run a serious threat. Stupak won 65%-33%. Stupak has been mentioned as a candidate for governor in 2010. But he likely would face a challenge in gaining support of Detroit-area Democrats in a primary.