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Upton considering U.S. Senate bid against Stabenow

January 31, 2017

Courtesy of MIRS News Service

Behind the scenes, Republicans are looking high and low for a top-tier candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) in 2018. And one may just fall right into their lap.

MIRS has learned U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) is considering abandoning the chance of a 16th term in Congress to challenge the three-term incumbent. 

Upton, 63, has gained a reputation in Washington, D.C. and back home as a hard-working moderate. He chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the past three congressional sessions, beginning in 2011. The committee has handled major policy debates such as those surrounding the Affordable Care Act and the Keystone XL pipeline. Upton continues to serve as a member of the committee. 

“(Upton) has heard from a lot of folks that he has the right vision and know-how that would serve the state well,” said Upton spokesperson Tom Wilbur. 

Upton is a powerhouse fundraiser who netted more than $3 million for the 2016 cycle. At close of books, last quarter Upton rested on a cash reserve of $521,450. His political action committee (PAC), TRUST PAC, raised just over $560,000 in 2016 and ended the year with $45,035 cash on hand. 

One veteran Republican consultant described Upton as a candidate who has been “at the top of the pile for a long time.” 

Looking at the political landscape, a potential 2018 Upton bid would be promising, according to Stu Sandler of Grand River Strategies. The state is running red hot after the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, emphasis on “red.” 

“If you look at 2016, Republicans have a lot of energy,” Sandler said. “If I were a Democrat — they are lifeless right now. They have an inability to win and they have an inability to win in Michigan . . . every race that’s significant, they’ve lost.” 

Stabenow, thus far, has left in her wake a trail of soundly defeated Republicans. The closest Senate race under Stabenow’s belt is her first in 2000 when she defeated Republican incumbent Spence Abraham with 49.97 percent of the vote. 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. 

As for finances, Stabenow’s campaign account is healthy with $2.4 million cash on hand at the end of the 2016. She raised just over $2.5 million last year. Stabenow’s PAC, Great Lakes PAC, raised $775,000 last cycle and closed with a little over $27,000 in the bank. 

“I think it’s a competitive race, I really do. I think if you look at the Trump numbers, there’s a path for a Republican to win and I think a midterm is an exceptional time for a Republican to win,” Sandler said. “Fred’s a great candidate. Fred starts with a good record of elected office . . . he’s got significant resources (and) he’s got a good way about him. People like Fred.”

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