Longjohn Wins 6th District Democratic Primary

Longjohn Wins 6th District Democratic Primary

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?”

Matt Longjohn wins crowded Democratic ticket; will take on Fred Upton for 6th District U.S. House seat

Matt Longjohn wins crowded Democratic ticket; will take on Fred Upton for 6th District U.S. House seat

KALAMAZOO — Standing on a makeshift stage inside Bell’s Brewery in downtown Kalamazoo, Matt Longjohn excitedly addressed his crowd of supporters as his victory in the Tuesday, Aug.7, primary was showcased on a large projector screen.

The 46-year-old Democrat referred to his party nomination as the beginning of the “Blue Wave” movement in Michigan, as he now prepares to face incumbent Fred Upton in November’s general election.

“Too many people are working too hard and not being able to make ends meet. This is about putting people first,” Longjohn said Tuesday night. “… This is just the end of the beginning. We have so much more to do. On to Nov. 6.”

Upton, R-St. Joseph, won his party’s nomination Tuesday with no opposition. Seeking a 17th consecutive term, Upton witnessed a rejuvenated opposition this year with an influx of Democratic candidates.

Longjohn, who waited until 11:15 p.m. to declare victory Tuesday, received nearly 38 percent of the votes – finishing with a total of 35,385 votes. In addition, Longjohn secured the most votes in each county within the district.

George Franklin, a Glenn resident, finished with the second most votes from his party by claiming 25,108 votes. That was enough for more than 26 percent of Democratic voters. Franklin released a statement following his primary defeat Tuesday, where he thanked his supporters and conceded the race to Longjohn.

“I would like to congratulate Matt Longjohn on his victory tonight. There is no doubt Michigan’s 6th District is ready for change,” Franklin wrote. “We need a health care system that works for everyone, and no one should go without clean water. I support Matt Longjohn in his effort to become the next congressman of the 6th congressional district.”

David Benac and Rich Eichholz rounded out the bottom half of the Democratic ticket.

Benac, a history professor at Western Michigan University, received 21,097 votes Tuesday, which accounted for 22 percent of the votes.

Eichholz, a retired scientist who lives in New Buffalo, collected 12,283 votes – about 13 percent of Democratic votes.

The four-way primary battle marked the first time since 1984 that more than one Democrat has sought the Southwest Michigan seat. That was two years before Upton was first elected to Congress.

The district that Longjohn and Upton will focus on this fall includes Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties – along with the majority of Allegan County.

Longjohn said he hopes to improve the health and quality of life for everyone in Southwest Michigan and across the U.S.

The Portage resident said his national career with the YMCA and his ability to influence Medicare policy makes him the best option for the country’s most urgent of needs.

Longjohn’s decision to run came from his visit to the nation’s capital last year. When he was trying to figure out how to volunteer, Longjohn said he was encouraged to run during his visit to the Democratic Party’s office. As a newcomer to politics, Longjohn said he wants to emphasize not just health care, but public health.

Upton, who was reelected in 2016 with 59 percent of the vote, released a statement on the amount of attention his district’s race is now getting.

The congressman said he looks forward to public forums, debates and “connecting directly with voters to discuss what’s important to them.”

“Our campaign reflects the common-sense, bipartisan work we’ve done and will continue to do. From improving health care, boosting our economy, preserving our Great Lakes, and more. That’s what our campaign will be focused on: the issues,” Upton’s statement said. “We must continue all working together to make Southwest Michigan a great place to live, work and raise a family. We look forward to a tough, clean campaign contrasting our visions for the future.”

Newly elected candidate takes shot at Rep. Fred Upton’s corporate campaign contributions

Newly elected candidate takes shot at Rep. Fred Upton’s corporate campaign contributions

The race is heating up for southwest Michigan’s seat in Congress. Newly elected Democrat candidate, Matt Longjohn is up against incumbent, Representative Fred Upton. The two will campaign for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, ahead of the General Election in November.

Longjohn took at the long-time Congressman’s corporate campaign contributions during an interview Wednesday.

“Transparency in campaign finance, I think, is just the beginning of what we should expect from anyone in office,” said Longjohn.

The Democrat candidate claimed the incumbent has received up to 80 percent of his campaign funds from corporate Political Action Committee (PAC) money. He called money from PACs “dark money.”

“He’s faced difficult votes. He’s faced votes on health care and the tax bill and various things like this. And if you line up his votes and you saw the people protesting on health or protesting on the tax bill, his votes went towards the interest of his corporate donors,” said Longjohn. “I don’t think that that’s something we should worry about as voters, whether our politicians are bought and paid for.”

Instead of focusing on political tactics, Upton wrote in a statement, “We must continue all working together to make Southwest Michigan a great place to live, work, and raise a family. We look forward to a tough, clean campaign contrasting our visions for the future.”

Longjohn said he quit his job as a former doctor and health care innovator to take on his campaign, competing against Upton’s 32 years as the representative.

“Health and healthcare is something everyone cares about and to be able to put forth new ideas, especially to contrast with Mr. Upton’s record in that area is something that we’re ready to do,” said Longjohn. “It became a realization to me after last year’s health care debates that someone needed to be included. Someone with a different voice, with experience with some perspective on health care and health care innovation and healthcare reform.”

Upton reminds voters he’s heading to the general election with 32 years of results.

“Our campaign reflects the common-sense, bipartisan work we’ve done and will continue to do. From improving health care, boosting our economy, preserving our Great Lakes, and more. That’s what our campaign will be focused on: the issues,” he wrote in a statement. “Lots of folks are paying attention and that’s a good thing. As always, we’re looking forward to public forums, debates, and connecting directly with voters to discuss what’s important to them.”

Michigan’s 6th Congressional District includes all of Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

Michigan doctors are taking their medical experience to the campaign trail

Michigan doctors are taking their medical experience to the campaign trail

Up until last year, running for a major political office had never really crossed emergency room doctor Rob Davidson’s mind.

“I never was like, ‘Hey, I want to run for Congress some day,'” Davidson said. “I was happily a doctor, a dad and a school board member, and that was going to be my biography.”

That all changed when talks to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act gained steam at the federal level. When U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, held a series of in-district town halls in early 2017, Davidson showed up in his scrubs, and shared stories of the struggles his patients have had with affording the care they need.

Things snowballed from there, and now Davidson is running in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary in the hopes of taking on Republican incumbent Huizenga in November. He is one of a handful of doctors running for statewide or federal office this election cycle.

RELATED: MLive partners with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information and other voting resources to our Michigan readers at vote411.org.

In another west Michigan district, Dr. Matt Longjohn is hoping his background as a physician and former National Health Officer for the YMCA will carry him through a competitive Democratic primary in the 6th Congressional District, a seat currently held by incumbent Republican Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.

And in the governor’s race, both the Republican and Democratic ticket include a candidate with a medical background.

Republican Jim Hines – who is running against Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck – is a obstetrician from Saginaw who has also helped run medical organizations.

Democrat Abdul El-Sayed took his medical degree to the public sector, running Detroit’s health department prior to becoming a gubernatorial candidate. He’s now running against former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and businessman Shri Thanedar in the primary.

Hines says his background in the medical field gives him a unique perspective that would suit the governor’s office well.

Owning a practice has given him a good mind for business, he said, and he has extensive experience working with people at an individual level.

“I’ve worked with people at solving problems together and looking at the options of what we can do or should do for an issue, and then help a patient decide what’s best to do,” he said. “When you think about it, that’s what governors do – they uphold the law, but they cast a vision, they give some leadership.”

Hines said he believes the office of governor doesn’t require extensive political experience, but should be someone with varied experience “who is able to work with people, is able to read people and cast a vision and a mission.”

When it comes to health care policy, Hines supports free market health care, entailing competition among providers, patient choice and transparency in how much services and treatments would cost.

El-Sayed’s experience in medical school and the public health sector has informed many of his political positions during the governor’s race. During a recent Democratic debate, he used that experience as leverage: “I’m a doctor, and unlike the other two I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to talk face-to-face with people who cannot afford health care,” he said.

In a later question about his views on abortion, El-Sayed referenced an experience he had in medical school sitting with a young woman who was making a decision on whether or not she wanted to undergo an abortion.

“I learned then and there this is always a hard decision, but it’s always an individual decision,” he said.

El-Sayed’s health care platform includes a plan for a state single-payer health care system dubbed MichCare, which he says would lower health care costs for Michigan residents. He’s also expressed his desire to get corporate money out of the health care system.

When Longjohn – who is running against George Franklin, David Benac and Rich Eichholz  – entered the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary race, he said he was doing so specifically to hold Upton “accountable” for supporting an amended version of the American Health Care Act, a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“At that point it felt like a duty for me to get in,” Longjohn said at the time.

Longjohn ran community health programs as the national health officer of the YMCA prior to stepping down to focus on his run. He has said he’s helped educate lawmakers on health policy in more than a dozen states, and that his expertise could help Democrats and Republicans come to an effective solution to the country’s health care needs.

Longjohn’s health care policy platforms include an increased focus on local public health efforts, reducing drug prices, more resources for mental health and rural health care and a long-term strategy for expanding Medicare and Medicaid.

As he continues his campaign in the 2nd Congressional District, Davidson continues to work shifts at the hospital.

One video Davidson shared about his experience and his support for a single-payer health care system took off on Twitter, garnering more than 500,000 views. His other health care policy platforms include protecting people with pre-existing conditions, covering general health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment and lowering costs for prescriptions.

Davidson said going from full-time doctor to part-time candidate has been a big upheaval in his life, but said he appreciates being able to hear from people all over his district about their health care concerns and other issues.

“This has been a huge curveball – it’s totally disruptive to our normal life as we knew it,” Davidson said. “And yet it’s so fulfilling, win or lose…I feel really lucky.”