Upton ponders run for U.S. Senate, report says

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton may be considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, according to a report from Michigan Information and Research Service.

MIRS, a Lansing news service, published an article stating Republicans are pushing for Upton to challenge U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

When asked whether this report had any truth to it, Upton spokesman Tom Wilbur neither confirmed or denied the St. Joseph Republican’s intent for 2018.

“Fred appreciates the encouragement he’s gotten from folks who believe his know-how and vision would serve our state well,” Wilbur said in an email. “But right now his focus is on representing everyone here in Southwest Michigan and advancing an agenda that ensures affordable energy for Michigan families as chairman of the energy subcommittee.”

Upton had previously considered running for the Senate, but chose against it in 1994. At that time, Upton was mulling a decision for months on whether to challenge Democratic Sen. Don Riegle.

In a Herald-Palladium article published in July 1993, Upton was quoted as saying the decision came down to being a good candidate or a good father.

“I want to be a dad,” Upton said in the article. “…I think it was very doable to win the primary and be a very strong contender against Riegle.”

Upton also ruled out a Senate run back in 2002, when asked by The Herald-Palladium.

Upton, 63, chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the past three congressional sessions. During his tenure, the committee handled major policy debates in relation to the Affordable Care Act and the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite terming out of his chairmanship, Upton has continued to serve as a member of the committee.

Stabenow, D-Lansing, is a three-term incumbent who has soundly defeated Republicans in prior elections.

The closest Senate race under Stabenow’s belt was her first in 2000 when she defeated Republican incumbent Spencer Abraham with 49.97 percent of the vote.

Ironically, Abraham was the candidate who defeated Riegle – the same year Upton was initially considering a run for Senate.

In 2006, Stabenow defeated Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard 57 to 41 percent. And her margin grew in 2012 against former U.S, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, 59 to 38 percent.

Susan Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, said she has heard rumblings from behind the scenes of legislators encouraging an Upton run for the primary.

Dumas referred to the well-known moderate as a “fantastic fundraiser” who has the support to back a run.

“Obviously, for the congressman to challenge Stabenow, he would have to give up his seat,” Demas said. “He’s a powerhouse in the House. That’s something he will have to weigh heavily. If he were to run, he would be a formidable candidate.”

Running for the U.S. Senate would hold at least one key difference from the 16 consecutive terms Upton has campaigned for as a U.S. Representative.

For one thing, he would have to run a statewide campaign, instead of focusing on the 6th District.

“Having served in Congress a long time, I’m sure he’s better known than most of Stabenow’s previous challengers, but his base of support is Southwest Michigan,” Demas said. “He will have to make up ground in metro Detroit. That’s where the money is.”

Despite the rumors, Demas said the news of a possible Senate run comes at an early stage of Upton’s 16th term. Dumas said it’ll be interesting to see if there will be a more definitive answer as his current term comes to a close.

“He is considering it. Certainly, Republicans would like him to,” she said. “It’s pretty early on in the process. We’re all waiting to see how the field takes shapes.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 1, 2017)

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