Jon Hoadley, a 37-year-old liberal, is pushing an agenda to confront climate change aggressively as a wedge issue to defeat longtime Republican incumbent Rep. Fred Upton in a purple district of southwest Michigan.
Hoadley’s embrace of the progressive “Green New Deal” might seem like a risk to score an upset in a district, Michigan’s 6th, bordering Indiana, and which President Trump flipped in 2016 after it backed former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The race is rated lean Republican by the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
But Hoadley is betting voters of both parties can identify with the effects of climate change fueling extreme weather, which he says have disrupted the work of farmers in the district who grow corn, potatoes, blueberries, and apples.
“The climate crisis is here in southwest Michigan too,” Hoadley told the Washington Examiner in an interview.
Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, seems to agree. This week, he chose Michigan, an upper Midwestern swing state that Trump narrowly won, as the venue to unveil his first general election ad focused specifically on climate change. The ad features Michigan cherry farmers who say climate change is harming their operations.
Biden, however, has tried to moderate his positioning on climate change in recent weeks, distancing himself from the Green New Deal and repeatedly pledging to not ban fracking for natural gas.
Hoadley, a state representative in Lansing, sees his association with the Green New Deal as an asset. His youth is central to his messaging around climate change. He’s been endorsed by the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate group that helped bring attention to the Green New Deal, along with Brand New Congress, a group that recruited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Younger people will live with impacts of the climate crisis longer than some folks,” Hoadley said. “Fred Upton had 34 years to get this right.”
Upton, a 67-year-old centrist Republican first elected in 1986, is no stranger to environmental and energy issues. He’s a former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and longtime champion of conservation and preserving Michigan’s Great Lakes. He’s also helped lead a recent effort by House Republicans to adjust their messaging around climate change in response to polling showing vulnerability among young and suburban voters.
Hoadley argues Upton’s interest in addressing climate change has come too late and is skeptical of Republicans’ limited agenda of promoting private sector innovation as an alternative to Democratic ideas favoring regulation, taxes, or mandates.
“He’s been there for 34 years and decided in year 33, when he doesn’t have the gavel, that we should start to take baby steps?” Hoadley said. “This is why people are so frustrated. He has had an opportunity to create change for years.”
Upton counters that his district’s centrist voters would be repelled by Hoadley’s support for the Green New Deal, a 14-page resolution co-authored by Ocasio-Cortez that calls for economic transformation to curb climate change while also addressing social issues by providing government healthcare and housing.
“Fred believes in climate change — he just doesn’t think the unrealistic Green New Deal is the way to go like Jon Hoadley does,” Josh Paciorek, an Upton spokesman, told the Washington Examiner.
Upton is campaigning on a mainstream Republican agenda of lowering prescription drug prices, ending the country’s opioid epidemic, and “making Michigan communities safer.”
He is a vice chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 25 centrist Republicans and 25 Democrats.
Nonetheless, Hoadley is portraying Upton as being too close to Trump. He’s voted with Trump 81% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, and opposed impeaching the president.
“Fred Upton is tied so closely to Donald Trump, when folks are calling for change, they know they need to see change all the way down the ballot,” Hoadley said.
Hoadley, seeking to become the first gay person from Michigan to serve in Congress, also attacked Upton for voting in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act multiple times. Upton backed Trump and the GOP’s unsuccessful push to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 but only after offering an $8 billion amendment to protect people with preexisting conditions. Upton has criticized Hoadley for supporting Medicare for All.
“For years, Upton has worked across the aisle to break gridlock, solve problems, and deliver results for southwest Michigan,” Paciorek said. “He’s never been afraid to stand up to President Trump when he disagrees.”