Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 11, 2013

George Weeks: Ex-Sheriff/General challenges Benishek

As two-term 1st District U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek , R-Crystal Falls, gears up for a likely 2014 reelection bid, he could face a far different dynamic than when he twice defeated fellow Yooper and former Democratic state Rep. Gary McDowell, a hay farmer from Rudyard.

Benishek’s Democratic opponent undoubtedly will be Jerry Cannon, 65, former Kalkaska County sheriff (1987-2004) and retired Army National Guard major general (1977-2012) who announced last week, after having been recruited by Democratic State Chairman Lon Johnson (also a Kalkaska area guy) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

On paper, Benishek has a favorable district. Inside Michigan Politics (IMP) newsletter, based on down-the-ticket outcomes over four general elections, calculates a current “Base Democratic Party Strength” in the 1st District of 46.4 percent.

In the IMP calculations, the Democratic bases are in the 40s in districts of all nine Republicans in Michigan’s 14-member U.S. House delegation.

Nationally, the Rothenberg Political Report views as “toss up/tilt Republican” the sprawling Michigan 1st District that is the second-largest geographically east of the Mississippi River. The Cook Political Report dubs the district “leans Republican.”

But Democratic strategists contend there could be an edge for Cannon, as he is in their view, an especially credible candidate from one of the 17 counties below the bridge, where there could be a stronger turnout than there was when both candidates were from the 15-county Upper Peninsula.

Before Benishek, the district was long represented by Democrat Bart Stupak of Menominee (1993-2011), who followed Republican Robert Davis of Gaylord (1979-92) and Republican Philip Ruppe of Houghton (1967-1978).

While party and two-peninsula dynamics are of interest, of more importance is where new candidate Cannon is on the issues. In a phone chat last week, he said of his career in the military, law enforcement and approach to politics:

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