Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Wonder Why The DCCC Keeps Overlooking Michigan's 6th CD And Fred Upton


Fred Upton, Steve Israel-- corrupt cronies in Congress

The DCCC announcement this week of another batch of candidates has been called their "worst recruitment effort in history." No one should be surprised that most of Steve Israel's picks for their Jump Start program could be barely described as "the lesser of two evils" in comparison to their opponents. Of the 9 new candidates, there appear to be two worthwhile ones, Erin Bilbray (NV) and Martha Robertson (NY). And on top of being inherently bad-- take anti-Choice, antigay gun loon Jennifer Garrison (OH)-- they're also a bunch of losers.

Let's look at a comparison of the races in OH-06, where Israel is backing Garrison against hapless and ineffectual Republican backbencher Bill Johnson, and MI-06, where Israel isn't even seriously considering grassroots progressive Democrat Paul Clements, who is running against Israel's crony, the powerful and destructive chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton. First, let's look at the two districts:

OH-06 has a PVI of R+8 and MI-06 has a PVI of R+1. Last year Democrats lost every race in an R+8 district (or redder), with the exception of four long-term incumbents who vote with the Republicans on nearly everything, Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT), John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Nick Rahall (WV) and Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC). That's 154 districts with R+8 PVIs or worse that the Democrats lost in. There are 11 districts with PVIs of R+1. Last year Democrats won 5 and only one was an incumbent. Democratic challengers can win in R+1 districts. In fact, of the 6 R+1 districts the Democrats didn't win last year, 2-- Upton's and Peter King's-- were under the protection of Steve Israel and the DCCC only made a serious effort in one district, CA-10, where they spent serious bank (over $3 million) on Jose Hernandez against Jeff Denham but lost anyway. They did not seriously contest NJ-03 (Jon Runyan), NY-02 (Peter King), PA-08 (Michael Fitzpatrick), MI-06 (Fred Upton), WA-08 (Dave Reichert), or FL-13 (Bill Young). Here's how Obama did in these districts. Oh, first OH-06, where Garrison is facing off against Johnson next year. In 2008, McCain beat Obama 53-45% and Last year Romney did even better, beating Obama 55-43%. But Steve Israel finds this anti-Choice, antigay, right wing nutjob who is known as the Sarah Palin of Ohio, so compelling that he's betting (your money) on her in this district. So here are the 7 districts with GOP incumbents and PVIs of R+1:
MI-06 (Upton)- Obama beat McCain 53-45% and lost to Romney 49-50%
FL-13 (Young)- Obama beat McCain 51-48% and beat Romney 50-49%
WA-08 (Reichert)- Obama beat McCain 51-47% and beat Romney 50-48%
CA-10 (Denham)- Obama beat McCain 50-48% and beat Romney 51-47%
PA-08 (Fitzpatrick)- Obama beat McCain 53-46% and lost to Romney 49-49%
NY-02 (King)- Obama beat McCain 51-48% and beat Romney 52-47%
NJ-03 (Runyan)- Obama beat McCain 51-48% and beat Romney 52-48%
Refocusing on just OH-06 vs MI-06, Obama did well in the Michigan district and miserably in the Ohio district. Despite spending $2,086,390 plus $397,242 from their House Majority PAC last year, the DCCC lost a rematch between Blue Dog/New Dem Charlie Wilson, a former congressman, 53-47% in OH-06. And Wilson isn't even hated by the Democratic grassroots the way Garrison is. The district has 18 counties and Johnson won 14 of them, including biggies Mahong, Columbiana, Washington, and Lawrence and effectively tying in Jefferson, a must-win for Democrats.

So what about MI-06, where Clements has already been endorsed by Blue America? Steve Israel will not allow the DCCC to get involved because Upton is one of his old buddies for the Center Aisle Caucus and they've pledged not to fight each other-- which is something Pelosi should have considered before appointing and-- inexplicably reappointing-- Israel to head the committee charged with winning seats (not protecting GOP incumbent pals). This week Hannah Northey did the deepest examination of who Paul Clements is for the environmental community. The article is behind an E&E Daily paywall so I'll draw from it:
Paul Clements (D) is the furthest thing from a household name, but that's not stopping the college professor from trying to unseat one of the most powerful members of Congress.

In fact, Clements, a political scientist at Western Michigan University, is the earliest candidate in the state's history to announce his intention to oust the deeply entrenched and wealthy 26-year House veteran Fred Upton (R), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, from Michigan's 6th District. And he's planning to use the issue of climate change as a cornerstone of his campaign.

Idealistic? Some analysts think so.

"It would require a tidal wave election and every possible contention to go correct for a Democratic challenger for Upton to begin to be considered vulnerable," said Jake Davison, president of the Lansing-based political consulting firm Advantage Associates, which serves GOP clients.

Upton has held a political vice grip on the Republican-leaning district for years and last year took almost 55 percent of the vote against Democrat Mike O'Brien. Clements, in comparison, doesn't have Upton's deep pockets or well-sourced political campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission, Upton had $720,000 on hand as of June 30, whereas Clements had $47,000.

Some political wonks in the state haven't even heard of the professor.

But Clements says Upton's increasing extremism on issues like climate change makes him vulnerable. He accuses the congressman of pandering to donors and special interests and says the district-- made up of six counties straddling the shores of Lake Michigan on the border with Indiana-- is ready for something new.

"It was Upton's turnaround on climate change that pushed me into running for this," Clements said. "He used to say we needed to regulate greenhouse gases, but it seems to get promoted to the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, you have to cut a deal."

Clements, who studied at Princeton and Harvard and grew up in India and Hong Kong while his parents worked for the Methodist Church, says he wants to address income inequality, ensure Michigan manufacturers produce and export more clean energy technology and bolster education and health care in the state.

He also says he has already raised more than $100,000 and plans to get his name out through a grass-roots campaign.

...But the GOP and analysts in the state reject the notion that idealism is a match for Upton.

"I think this guy from Western, I don't know if he's the sacrificial lamb or running on his own accord," said David Worthams, chairman of the Republican Party of Kalamazoo County. "I honestly would be surprised if there's anything but a solid victory in November of next year" for Upton.

Bill Ballenger, a longtime Wolverine State political analyst who publishes the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, said it would have to be the "perfect" storm for Democrats to successfully take on Upton, one that includes a "quality opponent," for the GOP lean of the district-- currently hovering around 54 percent-- to wane.

"It's almost laughable," Ballenger said. "The one thing about it is that he's announced it so early, but where he goes from here remains to be seen."

Although [Mike] O'Brien [who Israel sandbagged and sabotaged in 2012] recently announced his intention not to run against Upton again, Clements is taking a lesson from the previous Democratic nominee's handbook.

He's focusing on Upton's careful dance on the issue of climate change that all began when the congressman took the helm of the House Energy and Commerce Committee three years ago.

Notably, O'Brien attempted to paint Upton during their debates last year as a moderate who lost his independence to wealthy interest groups and the most conservative elements of his party. O'Brien made the point that Upton's website once featured the statement that "everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions."

These days, such language is absent from Upton's website and the congressman is better-known for his adamant opposition to a carbon tax, for his desire to stop the "war on coal" and for supporting legislation to strip U.S. EPA of its authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions linked to climate change.

The Los Angeles Times noted the change in 2011 when the newspaper's Opinion staff declared Upton the top "Enemy of the Earth," calling him the "gatekeeper for many of the disastrous anti-environment bills that have been approved or proposed in the House this year."

The newspaper went on to note the irony in that Upton was once known among his state's conservatives as "Red Fred" because of his "somewhat pro-environment voting record, but a recent electoral challenge from his right changed all that."

In the past two elections, Upton has been challenged in the Republican primary by former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, a conservative. Upton won the primary 57 percent to 43 percent in 2010, and by a 2-to-1 margin in 2012, outspending his challenger significantly in both contests.

...David Pawloski, chairman of the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, said Upton at one time described himself as an environmentalist to voters, but that description no longer fits.

"Fred ran back in the '80s, he said he was a strong environmentalist, that's what he told people," Pawloski said. "But now that he's chair, people have noticed that he's not so much for the environment like he said."

Republicans reject the characterization.

"I don't think he's flip-flopped," Worthams said. "When you're in the majority in Congress, Senate Democrats or House Republicans, you have to find those policies that would protect our natural resources while not providing something that's overbearing on small businesses."

Worthams said Upton has protected the country against "an EPA that's overzealous in their mandate" and that he's seeing very strong local support for the congressman.

Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, suggested that Upton's stance on energy and environmental matters is a reflection of the modern GOP.

"The House Republican caucus these days is like driving on a very narrow, one-way street," he said. "One has very few options at all to deviate from the dominant path. That's seen in members' positions on climate, as well as a host of other issues, including spending and the budget, health care, gun safety, and on and on."

But Clements said Michigan voters want to see Congress take action on climate change, and Upton has failed them.

"I've met with farmers in Van Buren County," he said. "We completely lost our apple and cherry crops last year because of the weird weather going up to the 80s in March and freezing again."

NRDC Action Fund Director Heather Taylor-Miesle predicted that the issue will resonate with voters and said Clements is improving his chances by getting out early and attempting to frame the energy debate.

Just how vulnerable Upton is depends on whom you ask. When it comes to Clements, Democrats are hoping the early bird gets the worm.

Having a 14-month head start gives the party time to get Clements' name out, and the professor is already on track to raise as much as-- if not more than-- O'Brien's $200,000, which set a record for Democratic fundraising in the district last year, Pawloski said.

Clements can also campaign full-time, which is needed when running against a sitting congressman, he added.

"I think Fred's vulnerable simply because he's been there 26 years, he's been there forever," Pawloski said. "People are dissatisfied with the way things are going in Washington."

Clements is quick to point out that President Obama carried the district by 10 points in 2008, and the decennial redistricting process did little to change the district's political makeup. The district also voted for Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D) and Carl Levin (D).

...Clements said his past experiences have fostered a desire to tackle issues like poverty and cleaning up the environment, and that will shine through in his campaign.

He grew up in Hong Kong and India, where his father, Jesse Clements, was a social worker for the Methodist Church. Jesse Clements worked with refugees from China and started a social service agency in Hong Kong with Paul's mother, Mollie, who worked on economic and social development issues in the slums of Mumbai and in villages around India. Jesse Clements died last year; Mollie Clements is a retired Methodist minister.

"I did 10th and 11th grade in India and spent most of my holidays helping out in the village and slum projects," Paul Clements wrote in an email. "I figured that this kind of extreme poverty didn't need to happen."

Clements went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from Princeton University, and he's now the director of the master's program in international development administration at Western Michigan University.

In addition to tackling economic problems in Michigan, Clements said he plans to call for more energy efficiency and conservation and wants to see Michigan manufacturing windmills and solar equipment. He also believes federal incentives are a way to reach that goal, despite the debacle surrounding the bankruptcy of the government-backed Solyndra solar energy company.

Upton led a politically charged investigation into Solyndra that prompted the House to pass legislation that would have wound down the loan program.

"I appreciate the federal government doesn't get these things right every time, but Upton's response was 'If there's one bad apple, you should stop supporting clean energy,'" Clements said. "That's completely wrong."
If you'd like to help Paul Clements replace Upton, you can chip in at the Blue America ActBlue page.

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