Upton announces he’ll retire from the U.S. House after nearly 36 years

By: - April 5, 2022 11:18 am
Fred Upton

U.S.. Rep. Fred Upton | Andrew Roth

Updated, 12:26 p.m., 4/5/22

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) announced Tuesday that he will retire from Congress at the end of his current term, avoiding a GOP primary in a new district with fellow U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

“Even the best of stories has a last chapter. This is it for me. I’ve done the zillions of airline miles back and forth, have signed ‘Fred’ to over a million letters, cast more votes than anyone in this chamber while here, and by most accounts have succeeded in making a difference accomplishing what I have set out to do with more unfinished work still yet to come,” Upton said in a speech on the floor of the House.

Upton has been a member of Congress since 1987, making him the most-senior member of Michigan’s House delegation.

Upton drew the ire of Trump and his supporters when he was one of 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach the former president following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“As a former Boy Scout, I believe in leaving the campground better than when you found it. I’ve worked with seven administrations and 7 House Speakers. None of them would call me a ‘rubber stamp.’ If it’s good policy for Michigan, it’s good enough for all of us,” Upton said.

Upton thanked colleagues like U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids), his staff, and his “salt of the earth” constituents, whom he says “I love them all – even a few that don’t always like me.”

Upton praised some of the “real giants” he served alongside in the House who “put principles over politics,” including former U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, John Lewis, Nancy Johnson and Don Young.

“I work daily on all things Michigan with [U.S. Rep.] Debbie Dingell and we have been hitting the road to push for civility,” Upton said. “Hopefully civility and bipartisanship versus discord can rule, not rue, the day.”

U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton | Andrew Roth

Dingell (D-Dearborn) praised Upton in another speech on the House floor.

“To him, ‘bipartisan’ and ‘compromise’ are not forbidden words,” Dingell said. “While we may not have found harmony on every issue, Fred and I always managed to disagree without vitriolic rhetoric and mean-spirited language. Even through our toughest disagreements, Fred always found a way to make me laugh. It is his civility that I, and Congress, will miss most.”

“His retiring is a loss for this country, and especially for the people of Michigan.”

As of 2021, Upton was the 22nd wealthiest member of Congress with an estimated net worth of about $25 million. Much of his fortune is derived from Whirlpool, the Southwest Michigan appliance company founded by his grandfather.

Upton had outraised Huizenga, bringing in $1.64 million in 2021 and reporting $1.47 million cash on hand as of Dec. 31, while Huizenga’s campaign raised $1.18 million and reported $1.14 million cash on hand.

Upton and Huizenga were drawn into the new 4th Congressional District by Michigan’s Independent Redistricting Commission. In February, Upton spent more than $200,000 on an ad in the new district, indicating he was mulling reelection.  

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I’m the wrong guy,” Upton said in the ad, hitting on a similar theme that he did in his speech Tuesday. “But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I’m asking for your support. I’m Fred Upton, and I approve this message because I’ll always fight for all of us.”

While Upton had a geographic advantage in the new district, which includes more of his current 6th District than of Huizenga’s 2nd District, he may have benefitted from a three-way race with state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), who Trump had first endorsed but dropped out after Trump changed his endorsement.

Trump celebrated Upton’s announcement in a statement.

“UPTON QUITS! 4 down and 6 to go,” Trump said. “Others losing badly, who’s next?”

In a campaign email sent to supporters, Upton said he had “very positive” poll numbers but decided “it is time to pass the torch.”

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.