Allegan County GOP censures Rep. Upton over impeachment vote

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The Allegan County Republican Party has censured longtime U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and "condemned" his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump, part of a party backlash across the nation against 10 House Republicans who supported the impeachment and their backers.

The Allegan GOP's executive committee during a meeting Thursday unanimously approved a resolution to censure Upton, complaining there was "little debate" and lack of due process in the impeachment process. 

"We believe Congressman Upton's vote is a betrayal of his oath of office and the core values of the Allegan County Republican Party," the committee stated in the censure resolution. 

"We believe this vote ignored the voice of the voters in Allegan County and was against their interest."

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph

The largely rural Allegan is one of the more conservative counties in Michigan's 6th District in southwest Michigan, which Upton of St. Joseph has represented in Congress since 1987.

Censure is a symbolic act of disapproval that has no teeth, but the Allegan GOP executive committee referred its resolution to another party panel to "investigate any further action that may be available."

Upton noted in a statement that he always said he would support Trump when he agreed with him and disagree when he thought Trump was wrong.

"Congress should not tolerate any effort to impede the peaceful transfer of power. I’ve gone to bat for southwest Michigan everyday I’ve been in Congress, bringing jobs, economic growth and opportunities to our region of the state," Upton said. "And that is exactly what I’m going to keep doing.”

Upton's censure illustrates the rift in the GOP over the future of the party in the post-Trump era, said David Dulio, a political scientist at Oakland University.

Upton, the state's most senior Republican in Congress, has been making calls and reaching out to local party representatives in recent days to hear their commentary in response to his vote, knowing they might disagree with his stance, spokesman Josh Paciorek said.

"But to move forward, this should be a party that can include a lot of different opinions, ideas and viewpoints," Paciorek said. 

Upton was among 10 House Republicans who joined with Democrats in voting for the article of impeachment charging the former GOP president with “incitement of insurrection” for his part in instigating the mob of Trump loyalists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

"I’m going to do the right thing," Upton told The Detroit News shortly before the vote. "The Constitution has to come first, I’m sorry. The president’s failure to take any blame for what happened last week is inexcusable." 

Five people including a Capitol Police officer, died in the chaos on Jan. 6, when rioters beat police officers and ransacked the building in an effort to stop Congress from affirming Democratic President Joe Biden's victory during a ceremonial proceeding.

The censure reveals the extent to which the grassroots of local party politics in west Michigan has been inundated with Trump-type Republicans over the last four years, Dulio said.

"But a county party censure isn't going to do anything. It's not going to stop Fred Upton from running for reelection should he want to. It may mean a more vigorous primary challenge," he said. 

"Right now, there’s still a lot of allegiance to Trump, but who knows what that looks like in 18 months when the primary actually takes place.”

Other House Republicans who voted for impeachment are facing or have already been censured by local party entities, including Rep. Liz Cheney, who ranks No. 3 in House GOP leadership. 

And the Arizona Republican Party on Saturday voted to censure three top Republicans in the state because they resisted Trump's efforts to overturn his defeat: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. 

"It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well ... and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor," McCain tweeted

The Allegan County GOP's resolution said many county residents and precinct delegates had attended the rally where Trump spoke on Jan. 6, and that the thousands  had gathered to peacefully petition their government for redress over complains about the 2020 election. 

The resolution blames the "liberal media," Democrats and "self-serving 'Republicans''" for "misleading" the public by saying Trump had incited the violence at the Capitol. 

Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California — the top Republicans in Congress — said this week that Trump "bears responsibility" for the riot

"The mob was fed lies," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like."

Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate is set to begin Feb. 9.