Whether you agree with his political stands or not, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak deserves the thanks and respect of the residents of the U.P. and the 1st Congressional District.
Many were surprised Friday when Stupak announced he would not seek a 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stupak said he is leaving to spend more time with his family and explore other career options.
Stupak has had quite a run in the U.S. House. He was first elected to represent to 1st Congressional District in 1992. For many local youth age 18 and under, he is the only congressman they have ever known.
Stupak has been in office for many years, but the past year may have been the roughest for the veteran politician. Stupak drew fire and national attention for both is stand on abortion and eventually his "yes" vote on the federal health care reform bill. His actions made him the target of Tea Partiers, conservatives and a host of others. In fact, the Tea Party Express started a concerted effort to defeat Stupak in the November's election.
After his vote, Stupak was even the target of threats against himself and his family - something no one in either public or private life should have to endure.
Stupak had a rough year and was the object of much criticism - some originating on this editorial page in both editorials and letters to the editor.
All that aside, voters must now select a new person to represent local interests in Washington. Whether you favor Stupak or not, he had his shouldered his responsibilities for nearly two decades and deserves the thanks and appreciation of the public.
The 1st Congressional District is large and sprawling, ranging from Ironwood to well into the Lower Peninsula. It is a daunting task for anyone to represent such a vast area and its people. The logistics of covering such a vast area is, in itself, overwhelming. Stupak did this faithfully for many years.
Stupak's service goes beyond his time in Congress. He was a member of the Michigan House from 1989 to 1990. He also served the public as an Escanaba Public Safety officer and later as a Michigan State Police trooper. He was injured in the line of duty.
Stupak's record of service to the public is long, and whether you love or hate Bart Stupak, you have to be grateful for his efforts over the years.
Now, it's time to look ahead. Let's hope that whoever ends up representing the U.P. in Congress after the November election makes the voices of local residents heard in Washington.