In his first two congressional campaigns, 1st District Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, had squeaker wins and now is described by Inside Michigan Politics (IMP) newsletter as next year having “the most precarious seat” in the Michigan GOP’s nine-member House delegation.
In 2010, seeking the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, the Upper Peninsula surgeon defeated state Sen. Jason Allen of Traverse City (who temporarily moved just north into the district) by a mere 15 votes out of nearly 90,000 cast. He then won 52 percent of the vote in defeating state Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard.
In 2012, Benishek had a narrow win by a 48.1 percent plurality over McDowell, who as a United Parcel Service truck driver was a Teamsters Union member for over 30 years, was a Chippewa county commissioner, and a hay farmer who had clever ads campaign TV ads among the bales of his product.
While IMP and others have wondered whether Benishek will run again, his camp said Friday: “Dr. Benishek is seeking a third term in office.” The camp also offered yet another array of criticisms on “the ever-campaigning Barack Obama.”
Benishek is a frequent target of attacks from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dispatched to media outlets in his district, as the committee does to other districts that it targets.
For example, on April 15: “As Americans file to meet the Tax Day deadline today, here’s a reminder that Congressman Benishek is stubbornly committed to protecting tax breaks for millionaires, Big Oil companies, and special interests.”
In citing figures that the DCCC used against other Republicans, it said, “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the budget Congressman Benishek supports would mean millionaires get ‘an average net tax cut of about $245,000’ while “families with children that have incomes below $200,000 would have to face tax increases averaging more than $3,000 a year.’ House Republicans like Congressman Benishek have voted to protect taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies already making record profits and to cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.”
While Benishek gets rapped by Democrats on such economic issues, he is allied with them on numerous issues protecting the Great Lakes.
Benishek, who notes that his district has over 1,600 miles of shoreline—the most in the continental United States and is the only district with shoreline on three of the Great Lakes—says:
“I have worked hard to protect the Great Lakes and ensure that people in Northern Michigan will be able to enjoy these natural wonders for generations to come.”
Among issues Benishek cites:
n “Since coming to Congress, I have endorsed several bills that fight the spread of invasive species,” including Asian Carp.
n “I am a proud member of the Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan group in Congress whose sole purpose is aimed at promoting and defending the Great Lakes.”
n “Since coming to Congress, I have fought to protect Northern Michigan’s many harbors and waterways. Shipping and recreational boating are a vital component to our region’s economy.”
Thanks to redistricting as a result of the 2010 census, Benishek has a more Republican district than he did when he first ran, although McDowell last year did better in the new district than McDowell did in 2010.
Last week, in noting that Michigan’s 14 members of the U.S. House had raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2013 according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) said that Benishek raised $133,019 in net contributions; had a campaign committee balance of $129,764; and campaign committee debts of $109,500 after winning Michigan’s most competitive congressional race of the 2012 cycle with an edge of just 0.5 percent against McDowell.
Things are indeed precarious for Dr. Dan, but he’s been there before.
Another interesting aspect of the MCFN report was that 4th District Dave Camp, R-Midland, who represents many northern counties and won big last year with 29.5 percent of the vote, has a cash balance in his campaign committee of a whopping $2,737,292.
The 11-term congressman, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, would be a strong contender for the seat being vacated by Sen. Carl Levin but Camp ruled that out last week.
So did longtime Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, wife of Dean of the House, 29-term Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn. In a reference to possibly teaming with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, she said: …”there was an attraction to potentially being the junior member of an All-Debbie Senate delegation.”
In a boost for two-term U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, a former state senator and Michigan Lottery director, she said “…I think it is critical that Democrats unite behind one candidate for what will be a difficult and expensive race, and it’s one of the reasons I have concluded that now is not the time for me to run for the United States Senate. We have good candidates like Gary Peters considering running, and a primary would be divisive at a time that cries out for unity.“
George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.