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Siljander First Incumbent To Be Trounced In House Primaries

August 6, 1986 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ Conservative GOP firebrand Rep. Mark Siljander congratulated his conqueror Wednesday after he became the first House incumbent to lose in this year’s primaries, then headed back to Capitol Hill as a short-timer.

″I am not bitter,″ Siljander said of his loss to former federal budget aide Fred Upton, who was making his first try at elective office. ″I have to move on in my life.″

Siljander, a fundamentalist Christian and passionate defender of the GOP’s New Right, will have served 5 1/2 years in Congress when his term ends in December.

Both Siljander and Upton said that negative reaction to a last-minute campaign tape in which Siljander asked local clergy to help ″break the back of Satan″ by supporting him played a part in the outcome.

His defeat, he warned, on the tape, ″would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics.″

With 98 percent of the vote counted from Tuesday’s primary, Upton had 31,772 or 55 percent and Siljander had 26,411 votes or 45 percent.

Upton, 33, now faces Democratic retired professor Daniel Roche in the general election. The heavily Republican rural 4th District in southwestern Michigan has not sent a Democrat to Washington since 1932.

Upton described both himself and Siljander as ″conservative Republican,″ but said that if elected he would align himself more with mainstream GOP House members like Minority Leader Robert Michel of Illinois.

He criticized Siljander for focusing too heavily on international issues at the expense of folks back home, and said he’d put more emphasis on services to constituents and get involved with House committees that handle domestic issues.

During his tenure in Congress, Siljander involved himself with the activist Conservative Opportunity Society which often takes the offensive while more moderate Republicans seek compromise.

Upton spokesman Vic Klatt declined to characterize his boss’ victory as a repudiation of the New Right, but predicted that ″Fred’s tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable″ than Siljander’s.

David Stockman, Upton’s boss for nine years both in Congress and in the Reagan administration, was the district’s congressman for six years before becoming budge director in 1981. That’s when Siljander claimed the House seat.

Stockman’s mother Carol, who serves as Berrien County treasurer and has long been active in local Republican politics, said she saw the vote for Upton as ″somewhat″ of a rejection of Siljander’s extremes.

″Fred doesn’t seem to have the far-right, out-of-control attitude,″ she said.

Siljander was embarrassed during the 1984 campaign when it was disclosed he had signed a letter urging voters in a nearby district to send a Christian to Congress. The incumbent, Rep. Howard Wolpe, who was once Siljander’s college professor, is Jewish.