Advance Notice: Briefs

Rep. Upton warns death threats will make recruiting candidates difficult

By: - April 18, 2022 12:54 pm

Retiring U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said Sunday that death threats against officials like him will make it increasingly difficult to recruit quality candidates for public office.

“It’s going to be a detriment to getting good people to run. It really will be. I’ve got a school board member that lives on my street, I think he got death threats, too, just over the [COVID-19] mask mandate,” Upton said. “It puts you at risk, particularly when they threaten not only you – and I like to think I’m pretty fast – but when they threaten your spouse, or your kids, that’s what really makes it frightening.”

Upton made the comments during an appearance on NBC’sMeet The Press,” where he discussed death threats he received after voting for the bipartisan infrastructure law, citing it as one factor in why he decided to retire from Congress at the end of his current term rather than seeking reelection.

“That’s why I’m here today. Death threats – they never were like we had this past year. It was pretty crazy,” Upton said. “And remember, that was a Republican bill. I mean, literally a year ago this week, [GOP Maryland] Gov. [Larry] Hogan brought a bunch of us up to his place in Annapolis – Republicans; Democrats; senators; governors; House members. Both sides of the aisle. We defined what infrastructure ought to be, and we decided how to pay for it. It passed 69-30 in the Senate. [U.S. Sen.] Lindsey Graham, [former President] Trump’s best friend, voted for it.”

Had Upton decided to run for reelection, he would have faced a Republican primary with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) after they were drawn into the new 4th District by Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Currently, Upton represents the 6th and Huizenga represents the 2nd.

Trump has endorsed Huizenga, targeting Upton for his vote to impeach the former president in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Upton had previously said not wanting to give Trump the appearance of a win would be a motivator to run, and began airing an ad in the new district, but ultimately decided to retire.

Still, Upton said he doesn’t think he gave Trump a win with his decision.

“No, we didn’t. I don’t think we did. It would’ve been a doozy of a campaign. I would’ve loved it, I like campaigns. I was ready to go. But the final straw was they redrew the district,” Upton said. “We were ready. We would have been welcomed in a lot of different places. But we would have had to raise, I don’t know, $5 to 6 million in a couple months. I could’ve done that. But in the end, it’s time for family.”

Upton predicted that Republicans will take back control of Congress in the midterms, but said that how effectively they will be able to govern depends on their margin, in part because the rise of Republicans like U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) spell “troubled waters” for the party.

“Are we going to be over or under 230? If it’s under 230, it will be very hard to govern for Republicans, knowing that we’ve got the MTG element that’s really not a part of a governing majority,” Upton said. “That’s why the margin is going to be so – you know, right now [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) got the votes. Particularly with the use of the proxy votes, she’s not going to lose a vote, and I don’t think she has in the last year and a half. We’re not going to have proxy votes. [House Minority Leader] Kevin [McCarthy] (R-Calif.) has made that very clear. None of us want that to happen.”

While he’s not running for reelection, Upton did offer advice for candidates who are, pushing back on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying Republicans would describe their platform after the election.

“You have to be for something,” Upton said.

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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.