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Yoopers Reserved Over Stupak's 'Yes' Vote

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Yoopers Reserved Over Stupak's 'Yes' Vote

Yoopers Reserved Over Stupak's 'Yes' Vote

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.

He cast one of the key votes to pass the health care bill. Now it's time for Congressman Bart Stupak to face his constituents. Some see the anti-abortion Democrat as suddenly vulnerable in what has always been a safe district for Stupak in northern Michigan.

NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: The Upper Peninsula, or UP, is a vast, rugged and sparsely populated place. And the people here, UPers as they call themselves, are kind of a different breed with a unique favorite food.

Mr. BRIAN HARSCH (Owner, Jean Kay's Pasties): It's called a pasty.

SCHAPER: Brian Harsch is the owner of Jean Kay's Pasties in Marquette, Michigan.

Mr. HARSCH: It's the combination of meat, potatoes, onions, and we put rutabagas in ours.

SCHAPER: Harsch says the cubed meat and vegetables are baked raw into a pie crust thats folded over. Popularized well over a century ago by the UP's copper and iron ore miners, the pasty is a meal thats long been a staple of UP living.

Another staple here for 18 years now is the UP's representative in Congress, socially conservative Democratic Bart Stupak. And some voters here say he did the right thing by both holding out against federal funding for abortions in the health care bill and ultimately voting for it.

On our way into Gary's Quality Foods in the small town of Stevenson, Juanita Delaurelle(ph) says she supports Stupak.

Ms. JUANITA DELAURELLE: Im against abortion. So yeah, I do feel like it was the right stand. But I do think we need health care in this country, better health care than what we have.

SCHAPER: Even some who oppose the bill say they appreciate Stupak getting the president's executive order on abortion funding.

After dinner at Schloegel's Bay View Restaurant in Stupak's hometown of Menominee, high school teacher Tom Baraboo(ph) says he likes that Stupak challenged his own party.

Mr. TOM BARABOO (Teacher): He held the line pretty steady and pretty tough, and said, you know, we're not budging on this without that being signed in. So I give him a lot of credit for that. He put up with a lot of slack.

SCHAPER: But others in the district accuse Stupak of selling out.

Ms. JANE STROLL(Owner, The Hair Zone): I do not agree with what Stupak did.

SCHAPER: In her tidy hair salon called The Hair Zone in Stevenson, owner Jane Stroll(ph) says she wishes Stupak would have stuck to his guns.

Ms. STROLL: I just dont understand what changes your mind at the last minute.

SCHAPER: Stroll and many others in the district say for the first time in a long time theyll consider voting for someone other thank Stupak.

Republican Dan Benishek is one of those hoping to be that someone.

Dr. DAN BENISHEK (Congressional Candidate): I think he's betrayed the district.

SCHAPER: Benishek is a surgeon from Crystal Falls who's never run for office before.

Dr. BENISHEK: I dont believe he represents the UP very well. He votes very far left on most of the issues. The two issues that hold him to the constituents have been his support of the Second Amendment and his pro-life stance. And now he bailed on the pro-life stance.

SCHAPER: Benishek says he's been overwhelmed with interest in his campaign from around the country, raising more than $50,000 unsolicited in the first 48 hours after Stupak's vote.

And Stupak faces opposition from the left, too. Connie Saltonstall, a former county commissioner from the lower Michigan part of the district, is running against Stupak in the August Democratic primary. She says she's raised about $80,000 because of Stupak's anti-abortion stand, and has the endorsements of NARAL, Planned Parenthood and NOW.

Meantime, Michigan Right to Life and other anti-abortion groups are pulling their endorsements of Stupak. But not everyone sees Stupak as suddenly vulnerable.

Mr. BUD SARGENT (Managing Editor, "The Mining Journal"): I dont believe in my heart of hearts that this vote was all that risky for him. I really dont.

SCHAPER: Bud Sargent is the managing editor of "The Mining Journal" in Marquette, Michigan, and its covered politics in the UP for almost 30 years. Though he doubts Stupak can lose, Sargent adds he may be facing his toughest re-election campaign yet.

David Schaper, NPR News in Menominee, Michigan.

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