A Kalamazoo-area physician hopes to do something in November that no other Democrat has: unseat long-time Congressman Fred Upton. Matt Longjohn easily defeated three other Democrats in Tuesday’s primary in Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District.
Longjohn addressed cheering supporters at a victory party as a torrential rainstorm started in downtown Kalamazoo. Health care was one of the issues Longjohn emphasized in his campaign, and he points to his experience as the YMCA’s national health officer.
“For 20 years what I’ve been doing is building coalitions that have gotten many things done, including already expanding Medicare. There’s a reason why the Obama White House identified me as one of the top health care innovators in the country, and it wasn’t for any other reason than that I had worked with many other people to get things done.”
Longjohn will face Upton in November. The Saint Joseph Republican has been in Congress since 1986. Some observers say it would take a major “blue wave” to unseat Upton. But Longjohn says he thinks voters in the district that includes six counties in southwest Michigan are ready for a change, pointing to recent presidential elections.
“You know, it was Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump for this district. Mr. Upton’s been in there that whole time. And after 32 years I think people going to give themselves permission to do something they haven’t done in 32 years, which is look for someone else who can put their interests first.”
Longjohn says he began thinking about running for Congress while he was at the national YMCA.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Longjohn at 37.4 percent of the vote. Runner-up George Franklin, a former Kellogg Company executive, had 27.99 percent. Western Michigan University history professor David Benac had 21.73 percent, ahead of scientist Rich Eichholtz of Saint Joseph.
Franklin says he will support Longjohn in his effort to unseat Republican incumbent Fred Upton. Overall, Franklin says he is proud to have stepped into the arena, despite the result.
“I’m proud of our campaign. I’m proud of our message. I’m proud of all these people I got to know and work with. And you know I’ll still continue to be involved. Like I said, I might write a book and hopefully have a TV miniseries coming out, how about that?”