Democrat Paul Clements attracts standing-room-only crowd at Kalamazoo rally writes the Kalamazoo Gazette Reporter Yvonne Zipp.

KALAMAZOO, MI More than 50 people packed into the Kalamazoo County Democratic headquarters Saturday to hear Paul Clements formally announce his candidacy for the 2014 congressional race to a standing-room-only crowd.fred-upton

WMU professor Paul Clements, who is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Fred Upton in 2014, speaks to a packed crowd at the Kalamazoo County Democratic headquarters Nov. 9.

Clements, a Western Michigan University professor who is looking to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, was on his fourth stop of the day on an eight-city tour of Southwest Michigan. He began the day in Buchanan, with stops in Allegan, Benton Harbor, Cassopolis, South Haven, Three Rivers and Union Pier.

Clements received a standing ovation when he entered the headquarters at 3254 S. Westnedge Ave. at 12:25 p.m.

“I’m pretty happy as a professor and if you’d asked me three years ago about running for Congress, I would have looked at you with a blank stare,” Clements said. “But it became increasingly clear to me, as I think it is for most Americans, that our Congress is not working. It became clear that our congressman, Fred Upton, is part of the problem … He’s changed from working to solve problems for the American people to working to block anything the party leadership is opposed to. He’s changed from legislating to posturing.”

Clements is the latest in a line of Democratic challengers who have tried to oust the St. Joseph Republican, who was first elected in 1986.

So far, Clements said, he has raised more than $160,000 in campaign funds, which he said puts him on pace to surpass the $290,000 total of Mike O’Brien, who lost to Upton in 2012..

“We still have a year to go,” said Clements, who added that he would be in Washington, D.C. Nov. 18, 19 and 20 and had more than 20 meetings lined up.

In an interview after his speech, Clements cited October polls that showed Upton with “the lowest approval ratings of his career … I think there’s definitely an opportunity and we’re beginning to get national attention.”

paul-clements-gambia-1985-87Clements, who was born in Texas but raised in India and Hong Kong, spoke to the crowd about his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and his work evaluating the success and cost-effectiveness of programs for governments and nonprofit organizations in developing nations.

“I would like to bring this expertise and experience to make American government work better,” he said.”We need reasonable and responsible government back in Washington.”

Clements, 52, received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. While studying at Princeton University, where he received his master’s and doctorate, his faculty advisor was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, he said.

If elected, he said he would focus on environmental concerns, including climate change and the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants, as well as education, including universal preschool for all children. Clements also spoke about the need to not “mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren,” either fiscally or environmentally.

State Rep. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, spoke in support of Clements, invoking U.S. Rep. Howard Wolpe as another professor who famously ran for office in Southwest Michigan. Wolpe was elected to seven terms, representing Kalamazoo from 1979 to 1993.

“The point is: This can be done. I know it looks uphill and difficult. But that doesn’t speak to the power of the people in this room,” said McCann, who is running for state Senate. “We can make this happen. We can turn Kalamazoo County a blue symbol across the state. We can change the 6th district and really send a message to Congress and to the nation.”

McCann quoted former President Bill Clinton, saying, “‘We’re all in it together’ is a better philosophy than, ‘You’re on your own.’”

A number of those interviewed said they believed it was possible to unseat Upton.

“I think the numbers here today and the fact we had to turn people away is a testament to Fred Upton’s vulnerability,” said John Taylor, Kalamazoo County commissioner.

“His bottom line isn’t making a profit; it’s finding a solution,” said JoAnne Ivey, of Texas Township, who planned to support Clements.

“He (Clements) is much more in tune with the people who would be his constituents. He’s not tied in with business but with the needs of the people,” said Susan Eden, of Oshtemo, who attended the rally with her husband, Raymond.

Eden said she had voted for Upton “a number of times” in the past, but added,”that was when he was more moderate.”