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Tough primary on horizon for Fred Upton after Trump backs GOP challenger

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Rep. Fred Upton, perennial target of disenchanted conservatives in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, is headed for a pitched battle in the 2022 Republican primary after former President Donald Trump endorsed his challenger, Steve Carra.

Carra was a relatively unknown freshman member of the Michigan Legislature muddling in a crowd of Republicans aiming for Upton when Trump endorsed him Tuesday. The former president is seeking payback against the congressman after Upton voted to impeach him for allegedly fomenting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Trump’s motivations aside, conservative activists who tried and failed for years to dislodge the resilient Upton may have finally caught a break.

“If the Trump endorsement can clear the field and make it one-on-one, that would make it tougher for Fred,” a Republican strategist in Michigan said Wednesday. “Of course, none of this is new to Fred.”

Upton, 68, first elected in 1986, has previously survived challenges in the Republican primary from formidable conservative opponents — including in the early 1990s, the early 2000s, and twice in the early 2010s. The congressman is not getting rattled by the prospect of a difficult campaign for renomination to represent the GOP in a red, southwestern Michigan seat that voted to reelect Trump with 51.3% in the 2020 election.

Upton typically takes his time deciding whether to run for reelection, depending on whether the political environment favors Republicans or Democrats. The congressman is approaching President Joe Biden’s first midterm election no differently, with his office issuing a statement reacting to Trump’s endorsement of Carra saying the incumbent is focused on lawmaking. The statement touched on some issues of concern to GOP primary voters, suggesting Upton is not interested in retirement.

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“He has a full plate working on rebuilding Michigan’s woeful infrastructure, lowering taxes on hardworking families, securing our border, and evacuating Americans and our allies from Afghanistan,” a spokesman for the congressman said.

During Trump’s term, Upton supported his agenda on the House floor nearly 79% of the time, according to statistics compiled by FiveThirtyEight. That was slightly better than the nearly 78% achieved by Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 ranking House GOP leader and a Trump loyalist. But Upton committed the mortal Republican sin of opposing Trump personally.

The congressman was one of 10 House Republicans who opposed impeachment the first time around. However, he voted to impeach Trump the second time, a vote conducted just days before the former president left office. For that, Trump wants him gone.

“Upton has not done the job that our Country needs,” Trump said in a statement. “He voted for Impeachment of the President of the United States on rigged up charges. He doesn’t deserve to keep his seat.”

Upton is not a Trump antagonist by nature. Unlike some House Republicans who oppose the former president, he has maintained good relations with his colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. That could make it tougher for Trump to knock the Michigander below other incumbent Republicans on the 2022 ballot.

Trump’s other problem could be Carra. Some Republican insiders in the state are skeptical he has what it takes to oust Upton — even with the former president’s help. Some Republicans wonder why Trump pulled the trigger before the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission completed its work and determined the boundaries of the new House map. The state is losing a congressional seat, and some significant changes could be forthcoming.

“Carra is not a serious candidate,” a veteran Republican operative from Michigan said. Carra took umbrage with such criticism in a statement emailed to the Washington Examiner.

"The weak and spineless GOP establishment do not want an outspoken outsider like me beating their hand-picked, corrupt candidates," he said.

"I am all-in on this race and I will work day and night to win the support of every voter in Michigan's 6th District," Carra continued. "The reason Trump endorsed me is because when I win, I will serve as the conservative fighter that the people of this district want now more than ever."

Carra was not always been Trump’s biggest fan.

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In a screenshot of a Facebook post, dated March 7, 2016, reviewed by the Washington Examiner and not disputed by the Carra campaign, Carra listed Trump third on his list of preferred candidates remaining in the GOP presidential primary — behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Regarding Trump, the front-runner, he wrote: “I like that he’s an outsider, but is he really?? I’m confident he will change the system, but not always for the better, and not always. He’s in it for himself and his own ego, if you ask me.”

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Tags: News, Campaigns, 2022 Elections, Michigan, Fred Upton, Donald Trump

Original Author: David M. Drucker

Original Location: Tough primary on horizon for Fred Upton after Trump backs GOP challenger