Enviros Tentatively Hopeful About A Potential Upton Upset

Enviros Tentatively Hopeful About A Potential Upton Upset

Climate activists in Michigan are hoping to pull off an upset in the House race that pits incumbent Republican Fred Upton against Democrat Paul Clements.

Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was considered a lock-in for re-election. But a recent poll conducted for the Clements campaign found him gaining steam against Upton, with the incumbent polling at 47 percent and Clements at 43 percent. Ten percent of poll respondents said they were still undecided.

Clements, a professor of political science at Western Michigan University, was considered a long-shot against the 11-term congressman Upton. Democratic polling found him 20 points behind Upton just two months earlier.

There have been a number of stories lately in outlets like National Journal, InsideClimate News and ThinkProgress pondering whether Upton is indeed at risk of losing his seat.

The biggest outside spender for Clements has been the Mayday PAC, a campaign finance reform political action committee that has spent more than $2 million on his behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Most national environmental groups have been more restrained in their spending on this race, however.

The upstart environmental PAC Climate Hawks Vote has been working to push climate change into a central position in this campaign. Upton has opposed the Obama administration's actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions from his powerful perch on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Clements, they say, would be a strong supporter of action on climate in the House.

The group has put one organizer on the ground in the district, organized around half a dozen and spent $2,500 on voter outreach. The group says it is focusing its final get-out-the-vote efforts on low-income and minority communities in the Benton Harbor part of the district, as opposed to the "well-off, white" parts of the district that constitute Upton's base.

"Climate Hawks Vote endorsed Paul Clements for a very simple reason: it's time to replace the face of Big Oil in Congress with a climate hawk," said the group's cofounder, R.L. Miller, via email. "During the last day and a half of the campaign, we're executing an aggressive voter outreach program focusing on Benton Harbor, and we're phone-banking throughout the district."

The Sierra Club endorsed Clements early in the race, and its federal political action committee gave $1,700 to Clements' campaign. The Sierra Club's Michigan chapter has also been getting its volunteers in the district involved in the campaign, the chapter's legislative and political director, Mike Berkowitz, said via email.

"Our volunteers come back from canvassing and phone banking with great stories about lots of passionate people who are sick of Fred Upton," said Berkowitz. "This is by far the best campaign anyone has ever run against Upton in the past 10 years."

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund also gave a $3,500 donation to his campaign.

But national environmental groups have largely focused their support on other House races; Clements is not included in the GiveGreen effort from the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which directs supporters to donate to candidates, for example. The groups have spent much more on other House races that looked more winnable on their issues.

While there is growing enthusiasm about a potential upset for Upton, others remain skeptical.

“It would be the upset of the election cycle if Paul Clement beats Fred Upton, particularly since Upton handily won this seat in 2012," said one national environmental leader, speaking on background to discuss the race more openly. "It would demonstrate that voters will vote against business as usual if they have the facts linking their representative’s campaign cash to his special interest favors."

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Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.)
Before winning his congressional race, Bentivolio was a reindeer farmer, Santa impersonator and star in a low-budget 9/11 conspiracy movie -- as well as a veteran, auto designer and teacher.He is defending his seat against attorney and "foreclosure king" David Trott in Michigan's 11th District.
Republican House candidate Jake Rush
Rush, an attorney who is challenging Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), led a double life. Until late last year, he also went by alternative identities such as "Chazz Darling" and "Staas van der Winst" as a member of the Mind's Eye Society, a group of gothic-punk role-players who pretend to be supernatural beings like vampires. Rush defended his hobby, saying he's simply "a gamer" with "a deep appreciation for theatre."
Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R)
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Grothman, who is taking on Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) in the state's 6th District, has advocated for a number of deeply unpopular policy positions, like making public employees work on Martin Luther King Day and reverting to a seven-day work week. He has also said Kwanzaa is a fake holiday that "almost no black people today care about."
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R)
Bennett, who is running in the Republican primary to succeed Gov. Jan Brewer (R), threatened to leave President Barack Obama off the ballot in Arizona if Hawaii didn't verify Obama's birthplace. He made the threat a year after the White House produced Obama's long-form birth certificate.
Democratic congressional candidate Aaron Woolf
Woolf, who is running to succeed retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), has an unconventional background as a congressional candidate: He is a documentary filmmaker who made the award-winning "King Corn" and the owner of an organic deli and grocery store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called "Urban Rustic."
Republican congressional candidate Isaac Misiuk
The 24-year-old Misiuk is an engaged father of one child and a second-year student at the University of Southern Maine. He is attempting to unseat Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and may be the youngest congressional candidate in the country.
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
Associated Press
Ernst, who will challenge Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) seat in November, gained crucial momentum in her primary by running an ad in which she proudly touted her background castrating hogs, saying she knows "how to cut pork."
Democratic Senate candidate Rick Weiland
Associated Press
Weiland, who is in the race to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), visited every one of South Dakota's 311 incorporated towns. When he finished his tour of every town, his campaign announced that he'd do it all again.
Republican Senate candidate Milton Wolf
Associated Press
Wolf is a a radiologist and tea party activist who is challenging Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). His campaign came under fire in February after it was revealed that he had posted and commented on his patients' X-ray photographs on Facebook in 2010. Some of those patients included fatal gunshot victims. Wolf has also compared his distant cousin, who happens to be President Barack Obama, to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)
LePage, who has been called "America's Craziest Governor" and "The Worst Governor Of All," is up for reelection in November. In one famous incident, he told the NAACP to "kiss my butt" when the group complained that he had refused to attend a Martin Luther King Day breakfast. He also said President Barack Obama could "go to hell" and told attendees at a fundraiser that the president "hates white people."LePage also once told students: "If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can't afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school."

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