In seeking a third term this year, 1st District US. Rep. Dan Benishek, D-Crystal Falls, faces a new dynamic. In his first two general elections, his opponent was a fellow Yooper, state Rep. Gary McDonnell, D-Rudyard.
This year, his opponent undoubtedly will be a Democrat with a substantial military and law enfocement background who is from below the bridge and was recruited and highly touted by top party leaders.
I first heard last year about retired Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon, former Kalkaska County sheriff, with raves in a call from from Democratic State Chairman Lon Johnson, who also has a Kalkaska area family background and ran for a legislative seat from the area.
Last week, after Cannon, 65, now of Fife Lake, made his first extensive tour of the U.P. (which has 15 counties in the sprawling district compared to 17 below the Bridge), I reached him by phone.
Cannon told Larry Holcombe of the Ironwood Daily Globe: “We’re talking to community leaders, government leaders, business leaders, unions, veterans, firemen; asking them what is on their mind. The bottom line is bringing people better representation, and what do we do get some jobs going around here.”
What was most on minds of the folks he talked with from Ironwood and Ontonagon in the west to St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie in the east?
Cannon told me: “The economy and jobs,” with many issues involving small business. He also said that the biggest employers in the Upper Peninsula are the Native American tribes with their casinos and other enterprises.
Cannon was a 1967-69 Vietnam veteran with the Marines, a 1977-2011 member of the Michigan Army National Guard, and for two years commander of Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. He said it has served its purpose and it “is time to shut it down.”