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Washington — With less than two weeks to the election, a national Republican group is starting to spend big in southwest Michigan to defend GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who is seeking a 17th term in Congress.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super political action committee endorsed by House GOP leadership, released its first TV ad and digital campaign in the district on Tuesday, criticizing Democrat Matt Longjohn for “misleading” people about his qualifications and calling him “dangerously liberal.”

“Longjohn isn’t licensed to practice medicine, but calls himself a doctor. So what else is he hiding?” the narrator says.  

The 30-second spot is running in the Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek market and on digital platforms. It's is part of CLF’s $400,000 ad reservation for the fall in Michigan’s 6th District.

Longjohn's campaign called the ad "yet another desperate and disgraceful smear from Congressman Fred Upton and his Washington special-interest friends."

"They are lying about Dr. Matt Longjohn because Upton has failed his constituents on health care," Longjohn campaign manager Ben Young said. 

"The real story here is that Dr. Longjohn is a southwest Michigan kid who worked his heart out to go to medical school, earned an M.D. as a single dad, and became one of the top health care innovators in the country who has improved care for millions. 

"He is running to be part of a new generation of leadership, and that scares the hell out of career politicians like Fred Upton and his ilk."

MoreHealth care issues dominate Longjohn-Rep. Upton's battle

First-time candidate Longjohn of Portage is challenging Upton of St. Joseph in the 6th District, which includes Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Berrien, Cass, Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

The CLF considers the district part of its “firewall” to protect Republican incumbents and GOP House majority in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

The group last month pulled its ad reservations from Michigan's hotly contested 8th District, where GOP Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester has been outraised by Democrat Elissa Slotkin of Holly. 

The new ad echoes recent attacks by the Michigan Republican Party, which filed a complaint this month with state regulators over Longjohn’s use of the initials “M.D.” in his campaign logo.

Upton and the GOP argue that Longjohn might have violated the public health code because he isn’t licensed to practice medicine in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has confirmed that Longjohn is not licensed to practice in Michigan.

The state code says unlicensed individuals may not use words or phrases "to induce the belief that the person is licensed."  

But the state code also says an individual may use a title or "letters" granted by an educational institution to identify themselves "as having completed or attained specific training or as having established a recognized relationship with a health profession."

Longjohn, who graduated from Tulane Medical School, has defended his use of "M.D.”

"I earned that degree," Longjohn has said. "And I don’t think there’s any conflict whatsoever. There’s nothing saying (on my yard signs) I’m open for business. I’m not advertising that I’m practicing."

Parts of the spot are reminiscent of an earlier attack ad by Upton’s campaign that claimed Longjohn wants to slash funding for the military and abolish the agency U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Longjohn has said that, as the father of a son serving in the U.S. Air Force, “I absolutely support our military.”

While he’s called for dismantling ICE, he says the agency should be reconstituted as one "that can earn and keep the trust of the citizenry in the U.S."

mburke@detroitnews.com 

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