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Biden endorses Hoadley in U.S. House race against Upton

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden endorsed the campaign of state Rep. Jon Hoadley for Congress on Wednesday.

Hoadley, a Kalamazoo Democrat, is challenging long-time Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton for his seat in Congress representing southwest Michigan. 

“Jon has been an advocate for working families and better schools as a state representative for the last five years,” Biden said in a statement. “He works hard for the people of Southwest Michigan, and I am proud to support his campaign.”

Democrats are targeting Upton's district and last month added Hoadley to the party's congressional fundraising outfit's select "Red to Blue" program for candidates who had hit thresholds for local support, campaign organization and fundraising.

The Cook Political Report recently changed its rating for Michigan's 6th District race from “likely" Republican to “leans" Republican.

State Rep. Jon Hoadley

Upton, who has represented the area since 1987, is Michigan's senior Republican in Congress and former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He dismissed the importance of the Biden endorsement Wednesday.

"No surprise here. A Democratic presidential nominee endorsing a Democrat is pretty standard operating procedure," Upton said in a statement. 

"The fact is, Joe Biden and I have known each other a long time, and we have a strong working relationship as evidenced by our work together on the historic 21st Century Cures Act, which included the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot."

Shortly before the 2018 midterm election, Biden praised Upton during a speech in Benton Harbor as "one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with."

The remarks soon after appeared in political advertising boosting Upton, who was facing a tough re-election challenge from Democrat Matt Longjohn. Upton went on to defeat Longjohn by 4.5 percentage points — his closest margin in decades.

That 2018 advertisement seemed to imply that Biden had endorsed Upton over Longjohn, without using that "endorsement" language, Hoadley said. 

"That's why this endorsement today is really powerful. Because it unequivocally shows that Joe Biden is ready to see change in southwest Michigan. He won't let his words get misconstrued or implied to be something that they weren't last time," Hoadley said. 

"This is part of how Vice President Biden and Senator Harris get over the finish line in a state like Michigan — a strong turnout in southwest Michigan, with people calling for change."

Hoadley, who also has the backing of vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, a California senator, picked up endorsements this week from Longjohn and Jen Richardson, his Democratic primary challenger whom he narrowly defeated last month. 

Upton has a fundraising advantage in the contest, raising $2.1 million for his re-election to Hoadley's $1.37 million through July 15. At that point, Hoadley had $418,000 in cash reserves to Upton's $1.4 million, according to federal disclosure reports. 

The 6th District includes Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

mburke@detroitnews.com