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Upton announces retirement after over three decades in Congress

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Leah Herman
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U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)

The St. Joseph Republican announced he wouldn’t seek re-election during a floor speech in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday morning.

“Even the best story has a last chapter. This is it for me,” Upton said. “I’ve done the zillions of airline miles back and forth, I’ve signed Fred to over a million letters, cast more votes than anyone in this chamber while here.”

Upton’s retirement leaves a primary race largely open for Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI 2).

The two would have faced off for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s newly drawn 4th Congressional District.

“Fred and I have worked together on a host of issues including prioritizing the protection of the Great Lakes, leveling the playing field for Michigan agriculture, and supporting efforts to clean up PFAS and lead contamination. Fred’s statesman-like legacy will be remembered both in Michigan and our nation’s capital,” Huizenga said in a statement.

Well wishes for Upton began coming in almost immediately. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI 12) spoke right after Upton Tuesday.

She noted Upton’s dedication to bipartisan work, calling him “one of the greatest Michiganders to serve our country.”

“It is his civility that I and Congress will miss the most. Fred really believed that he was an American first. That reaching across the aisle was important. That working together is how we get things done for the American people,” Dingell said.

Upton served as vice-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. During his speech, he outlined his support for bipartisan legislation on issues like immigration, infrastructure, and medical research. He gave a wish for the future.

“Hopefully, civility and bipartisanship versus discord can rule not rue the day.”

Upton was among a handful of Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for impeaching former Pres. Donald Trump after the January 6th insurrection.

The move earned him the former president’s ire, with Trump endorsing two different primary opponents to Upton.

In a statement credited to Trump through the political action committee, Save America, the former president wrote “4 down and 6 to go,” in a likely reference to the 10 House Republicans who stood against him in impeachment.

Some supporters of the former president had recently questioned Upton’s conservative ethos.

Michigan GOP spokesperson Gustavo Portela said he doesn’t believe that played into Upton’s decision to step away.

“I think he was going to decide himself whether or not he was going to do that and really maintain that independence that he had as a congressman virtually the entire time he was in Congress, always doing the right thing for his constituents,” Portela said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also weighed in on Upton’s retirement Tuesday.

“Over decades of service, he has protected the Great Lakes and shaped major legislation on energy, the environment, manufacturing, and so much more. Mr. Upton’s leadership is bipartisan, commonsense, and empathetic,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

As for retirement plans after his 18th term in office is up, a choked-up Upton referenced his wife, Amey.

“Someone asked my wife, Amey, ‘What would be the next chapter?’” according to Upton. “She said, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ Indeed, we will.”

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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