Trump endorses Michigan primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra on Tuesday in his primary bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a longtime Republican congressman from southwest Michigan.

The endorsement is a boon for the conservative first-term state lawmaker from Three Rivers who has led the push in the Legislature for an audit of the 2020 election results, an idea that's been championed by Trump.

State Rep. Steve Carra has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the Republican primary with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.

Upton, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1986, voted to impeach Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol. He hasn't said if he'll seek reelection in 2022 but he's been raising money for a potential campaign. Not having the former president's backing could be a problem for Upton because Trump remains popular within the Michigan GOP.

"It is my great honor to endorse Michigan State Representative Steve Carra to oppose RINO (Republican in name only) Congressman Fred Upton," Trump said in a statement issued Tuesday. "Upton has not done the job that our country needs, for years has talked about leaving office and not running again, and he voted for impeachment of the president of the United States on rigged up charges."

"He doesn't deserve to keep his seat," Trump added of Upton. "Steve Carra, on the other hand, is strong on crime, borders and loves our military and our vets. Steve will continue to fight for low taxes and all of the other things that the great people of Michigan want and need."

Billy Fuerst, a spokesman for Upton, said Michigan voters know Upton's "record of delivering results for Southwest Michigan."

"He has a full plate working on rebuilding Michigan’s woeful infrastructure, lowering taxes on hardworking families, securing our border and evacuating Americans and our allies from Afghanistan," Fuerst said.

Carra was elected to the Michigan House in 2020. He previously worked as a staffer for state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, and as a research assistant at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids. He formed his committee to run for the U.S. House in April.

In June, Carra introduced a bill to require an audit of Michigan's election, the first such proposal to be filed in the battleground state's Legislature.

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

"I think we should verify the election results," he said at the time. "It's the No. 1 issue I'm hearing about from people in the community."

Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points, over Trump. Dozens of audits by election officials, a series of court rulings and an investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate have all upheld the outcome. But Trump and some of his supporters in the state have levied unsubstantiated claims that the vote was rigged and called for another review of the election.

Upton and U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township were two of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January.

"I’m going to do the right thing," Upton told The Detroit News in January after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. "The Constitution has to come first, I’m sorry. The president’s failure to take any blame for what happened last week is inexcusable." 

Carra is one of at least four Republicans who are planning to challenge Upton in the primary next year. Upton won a primary race in 2020 against Elena Oelke with 63% of the vote. Oelke, who ran a low-profile campaign, got 37%.

It's unclear what Upton's district will look like ahead of 2022 because the redistricting process is ongoing in Michigan. But Carra is expected to be a more formidable primary opponent than Oelke was.

"It is an honor to be endorsed by President Donald J. Trump in my race for Congress," Carra said. "I am running to replace RINO, Anti-Trumper Fred Upton and serve as a conservative fighter for Michigan's 6th District in Congress."

Whatever happens in the primary race could have impact on the general election. Democrats have unsuccessfully spent millions of dollars attempting to unseat Upton. Having a more conservative general election opponent in November 2022 could help Democrats.

In 2020, Upton defeated then-state Rep. Jon Hoadley, a Democrat from Kalamazoo, 56%-40%.

Carra is Trump's second endorsement in Michigan ahead of the 2022 election. Last month, he announced his support for Jonathan Lindsey, a Republican state Senate candidate and special forces veteran from Brooklyn, running in what is now considered the 16th Senate District.

Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.