District 6: U.S. Rep. Fred Upton wins 16th term

Melissa Nann Burke and Keith Laing Detroit News Washington Bureau
Rep. Fred Upton, center, R-Mich., celebrates the Chicago Cubs' World Series win as well as his own re-election, Tuesday in Benton Harbor.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton has won election to a 16th term in Congress, defeating Democratic challenger Paul Clements in a rematch of their 2014 contest.

The Associated Press called the 6th Congressional District race for Upton early Wednesday morning. With 85 percent of precincts reporting totals, the St. Joseph Republican was leading Clements with 58 percent to 37 percent of the vote.

“While I am disappointed at the result, the people of Southwest Michigan have spoken," Clements said in a statement. "I congratulate Congressman Upton on winning his sixteenth term, and I hope he will take greater strides to distance himself from the extremists within his own party.  The dysfunction in Congress must end for the good of our country."

Upton beat Clements by 15.5 percentage points in 2014. The incumbent again outspent and out-raised Clements this cycle, but political observers were expecting a closer race, in part because of the presidential election.

The 6th District includes Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. It voted for Barack Obama in 2008 (54 percent) and Mitt Romney in 2012 (50 percent).

Supporters had said Upton somewhat insulated himself from the uncertainty at the top of the ballot by his choosing not to endorse GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Clements was bolstered in part by an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and hoped his campaign would benefit from the get-out-the-vote efforts of a dozen full-time employees working in the district for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Clements is a professor at Western Michigan University who teaches economic development. He attended Harvard University, served in the Peace Corps, and grew up overseas as the child of missionaries.

Clements raised record amounts of cash for a Democrat in the 6th District — $1,035,664 as of Oct. 19, and almost entirely from individuals.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took notice and added the contest to its Emerging Races program for competitive campaigns.

Clements has criticized Upton as a climate-science denier doing "everything he can" to block Obama's climate action program. Clements says Upton is beholden to political action committees representing out-of-state corporations from whom he has accepted millions in campaign contributions.

Upton, the most senior Republican in Michigan’s delegation, was first elected to the southwestern Michigan district in 1987. He has chaired the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee for the last six years.

Upton emphasizes his bipartisan efforts such as helping broker the auto bailout and negotiating the House deal on infrastructure aid for Flint's water crisis. He touts recent legislation he introduced to fight the opioid abuse epidemic and increase funding for medical research.

mburke@detroitnews.com