BENTON HARBOR — Elena Oelke plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Fred Upton on the Republican ticket in August, if Upton seeks another term.

The Benton Harbor resident said she has filed to run because she’s disappointed in what Congress has done in recent years.

“I want to be a voice for our district,” Oelke said Friday. “I don’t think Congress has accomplished enough to better our lives. I believe Congress can do better. I have not seen any tangible legislation on securing borders. Just wasteful spending.”

Oelke, R-Benton Harbor, said she grew up in the Soviet Union, a region now in the area of Ukraine. She came to the U.S. as a legal immigrant in 1998.

As a graduate from the University in Ukraine, Oelke said she wants to “protect America from the socialism” she witnessed during her time in the USSR.

Oelke, 49, has more than 20 years of experience in real estate. She is the owner of Prestige Properties and Professionals Southwest Michigan Real Estate Inc. in St. Joseph.

Oelke has never held or run for public office before. 

In addition to focusing on health care and immigration reform, Oelke said she supports President Donald Trump.

“We need to put Americans first. We need to be responsible with taxpayers’ money,” she said. “I have become tired of hearing empty promises on TV. I have become tired of hearing how burdened our citizens and businesses are.”

Upton, R-St. Joseph, first elected in 1986, claimed his 17th consecutive term in November 2018 over Democratic challenger Matt Longjohn. Upton was re-elected by 4.5 percentage points, his closest challenge in many years.

As of Friday, Upton has not officially announced his intention to run again in 2020. An Upton aide said the congressman is making visits throughout the district with an eye toward running.

The 6th Congressional District includes Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski