Rep. Fred Upton (R)
Michigan 6th District
The southwest corner of Michigan was settled by New England Yankees and Upstate New Yorkers in the 1830s and 1840s. They built small towns with schools and churches and colleges, supported temperance and opposed capital punishment. And in 1854, they started the Republican Party. There are towns in southwest Michigan that still recall proudly their past as termini of the Underground Railroad, and there are black families that claim ancestors who made their way north out of slavery to freedom. Later, big industries transformed some of the small towns into significant cities. Kalamazoo, started by Dutch-Americans who introduced celery to this country, became the home of Upjohn pharmaceuticals, which went through several corporate changes and is now part of Pfizer. Predominantly black and struggling Benton Harbor and predominantly white and prosperous St. Joseph, twin towns on Lake Michigan, were originally known for cherry and peach orchards, but now the dominant local fruit is the blueberry, and Benton Harbor is best known as the headquarters for Whirlpool. But many other local companies and other famous industrial names have moved out, along with their thousands of jobs. Like many other jurisdictions, the region is increasingly turning to casinos for an economic shot in the arm. The Pokagon Indian Tribe opened a large casino resort in Berrien County in 2007. Kalamazoo has had some success keeping its young people in school with a program that pays college tuition for high school students who graduate; it is the model for a statewide plan adopted by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2007. The southwest corner is where the influence of Michigan recedes: People here watch Chicago television and root for the Cubs or White Sox baseball teams rather than the Detroit Tigers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Michigan occupies the southwest corner of the state, with Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor-St. Joseph its two major urban areas. It takes in three smaller counties and parts of two others. It was for many years arch-Republican territory, represented by a succession of conservative congressmen who deplored federal spending and welfare-state measures: New Deal opponent Clare Hoffman (1935-63), Nixon defender Edward Hutchinson (1963-77), and pork barrel critic and later Reagan Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman (1977-81). In the 1990s, Kalamazoo trended toward the Democrats, and the 6th District cast small pluralities for Bill Clinton in the 1990s. George W. Bush carried the district twice but lost Kalamazoo County in 2000 and 2004, thanks in part to the influence of the Western Michigan University community and its 25,000 students. In 2008, Barack Obama won the district 54%-44%. Granholm won Kalamazoo County, 59%-39%, over western Michigan Republican Dick DeVos in 2006.
Rep. Fred Upton (R)
Elected: 1986, 12th term.
Born: April 23, 1953, St. Joseph .
Home: St. Joseph.
Education: U. of MI, B.A. 1975.
Family: Married (Amey); 2 children.
Professional Career: Project coord., U.S. Rep. David Stockman, 1975–80; Legis. affairs, O.M.B., 1981–83, Dir., 1984–85.
The congressman from the 6th District is Fred Upton, a Republican first elected in 1986. The grandson of one of the founders of Whirlpool, Upton grew up in St. Joseph, attended the University of Michigan and worked for David Stockman, first on Stockman’s congressional staff, then from 1981 to 1985 at the White House in OMB. Upton returned home and ran in the 1986 Republican primary against Rep. Mark Siljander, a conservative and evangelical Christian, and won 55%-45%. Upton is less like the congressional David Stockman, a scourge when it came to federal spending, and more like the OMB Stockman, who rued the Reagan tax cuts.
|Fred Upton (R)||188,157||(59%)||($1,527,587)|
|Don Cooney (D)||123,257||(39%)||($84,883)|
|Fred Upton (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (61%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (68%), 1998 (70%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (73%), 1992 (62%), 1990 (58%), 1988 (71%), 1986 (62%)
Upton has a moderate voting record, and he freely exercised his independence when his party controlled the House from 1995 to 2006. He sought, with limited success, to use his leverage to reduce the size of tax cuts during the Bush presidency. He has backed increases in the minimum wage, increased funding for Amtrak, and Democratic measures to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. He also voted with Democrats to preserve the Endangered Species Act and to expand embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses discarded embryos from in vitro fertilization; both positions were at odds with those of his party. In February 2007, he broke with his party to oppose the Bush administration plan for a “surge” of troop strength in Iraq. “The Iraqis don’t want us there. We’re viewed as part of the problem, not the solution,” he said. But he later backed Bush’s veto of Democratic proposals to restrict spending on the war.
Upton is the third most senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and is a strong candidate to become the top Republican on the panel in 2011, when the current ranking member, Republican Joe Barton of Texas, reaches his term limit. Next in line in seniority is Ralph Hall of Texas, but Hall will turn 88 in 2011, and would unlikely be the party’s choice for such a critical committee post. Upton has been particularly involved in telecommunications issues on the committee and chaired the Telecommunications Subcommittee for six years when Republicans controlled the House. He supported a bill to allow regional telephone companies to provide broadband service more easily, and he pushed for higher fines against broadcasters for indecent programming, from $32,500 to $325,000. He also criticized the recording industry for inadequate parental advisory labels on music that contains sex, violence or strong language, but took the view that the First Amendment bars Congress from regulating the content. Bush signed his bill to create a “safe playground for kids” on the Internet, free of pornography and other inappropriate material. Overall, Upton has backed deregulation of the broadcast industry, including the lifting of cross-ownership media bans in the same market. In his committee work, Upton also has been a big booster of additional nuclear power facilities. As the one-time chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Upton investigated the Salt Lake City Olympics scandal and defects in Firestone-Bridgestone tires.
Upton has been re-elected by wide margins. But in 2008, his defeat of outspoken liberal Kalamazoo City Councilor Don Cooney by 59% to 39% was his lowest percentage win since 1990, and was reflective of his gradually declining winning percentages in Berrien and Kalamazoo counties. In the 2006 election, he defeated Kim Clark, a modestly financed theater owner and former television producer, with 61%.