Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 10, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Benson to run hard race for Congress


What may be most puzzling is why Jocelyn Benson would give up her present job— and risk being labeled a two-time loser — for a risky shot at being a freshman congressman.

Her law school appointment came after degrees from Wellesley, Oxford, and Harvard Law School and stints as an investigative journalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center, working for the NAACP on voting rights issues, and as a law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith.

Fiercely active in Democratic politics, she was the party’s nominee for secretary of state three years ago. That’s the job she - even now - says is the one she really always wanted. In fact, she is he author of a book: “State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process” that looks at best practices adopted by holders of that office around the nation.

Shortly after it was published three years ago, she sought - and won —the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. Unfortunately, it was an overwhelmingly GOP year. Though Benson led the statewide Democratic ticket, she lost, 52 to 47 percent to current Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

That was not seen as a fatal blow to her career. After her defeat, she founded the Michigan Center for Election Law, and also a group called Military Spouses of Michigan.

She has a personal stake in the latter: her husband, Ryan Friedrichs, voluntarily joined the U.S. Army at age 34, and served as an enlisted man with an airborne brigade in Afghanistan. His service ends in August. Last month, Benson, a dedicated runner, went to visit him, and while she was there, ran in the Venice Marathon.

Today, she says, her biggest causes are helping military families and doing something to reform congressional and legislative redistricting in Michigan. She says her choice as to whether or not to run is “how I can best make that happen.”

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