Western Michigan University Professor Paul Clements says climate change is one of the major issues that convinced him to challenge Congressman Fred Upton.
Clements has never run for political office before, but says Upton has lost touch with the values in Southwest Michigan. Clements faces no opposition for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional district. He says Upton has shifted on climate change, and is now promoting looser regulations that Clements says spell trouble for the future.
Clements sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Yvonne Zipp for an interview. On other issues:
The Political Science Professor says green energy and high tech manufacturing are the keys to the nation's economic future. He says the government needs to invest in science and support education to ensure that a well educated workforce is ready for high-skilled jobs. Clements says the U.S. needs better trade policy to support exported goods.
Clements says the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, improves access. But he says more has to be done to hold down inflation in health care costs. Clements says the ACA does place greater emphasis on prevention. But he says more can be done to hold down health care spending.
The scandal involving Veterans Affairs Hospitals is unacceptable, according to Clements. He says his research as a professor involves government systems running efficiently. But Clements says the issue shouldn't be politicized. He says Congress should focus on solving problems for the American people. Clements says he would not be afraid to disagree with leaders in his party, and hold them accountable if he is elected to Congress.
Clements says the government should do more to provide low-interest loans to students to help them afford college. He also favors some form of loan forgiveness for students who go into public service fields, where there aren't enough qualified candidates.
Republican Representative Fred Upton was first elected to Congress in 1986. He is Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 2012 was Upton's closest race for re-election. He won 54% of the vote against Democrat Mike O'Brien. But Clements says he hears from voters across the district that Upton has changed. Clements says he got an earlier start than other Democrats who have challenged Upton in the past. The Western Michigan University Professor says he can represent a positive vision for the middle class. Clements says he expects to be outspent, but says his fundraising numbers are better than Democrats in the past.
Clements says he supports legalizing gay marriage. He says it appears to be happening on a state by state basis. Clements says the pace of change is pretty rapid, and "that's a good thing." When asked about laws on marijuana, Clements says he wants to see what happens in states where pot has been legalized. He says if the results are positive in those states, then he could support changing federal law.
When asked under what conditions he would support the use of force, Clements says "the bar should be high." He says U.S. interests need to be protected overseas. But Clements say force should be a last resort.
Clements criticizes Upton for being part of the rightward drift of the Republican Party. The Democratic candidate says he doesn't want to promise that one candidate can change the culture of Congress. But Clements says he will do his best to work with members of both parties.