2014-08-30 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Benishek-Cannon 1st District U.S. Congressional Race Heats Up
By George Weeks

Now that the primary is behind them, the race is rapidly heating up between 1st District U.S. Representative Dan Benishek (R-Iron River) and Democratic challenger Jerry Cannon of Fife Lake, a retired major general and former Kalkaska County sheriff.

Both have been blitzing the sprawling district in issue forums and are running television ads (Benishek has had five), the most recent being Cannon’s widely-aired ad—featuring visuals of the uniforms he wore for law enforcement and military service.

Benishek, who for 20 years was a surgeon at the Veterans Administration hospital in Iron Mountain and is the only Michiganian now on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has been presiding at vets forums on both peninsulas.

Last week, Benishek announced VA Administration approval of a lease package for the Traverse City Veterans Care Center Expansion, a primary care facility with specialty services offered in several areas.

He called it “great news for our deserving veterans in Traverse City and all of northern Michigan. …I have witnessed firsthand the mismanagement that has caused these types of delays in improving veterans care.”

Benishek also concluded his “Energy Tour of Northern Michigan,” visiting power, solar, wind, and bio-mass plants “to learn from leaders in energy innovation in partnership with the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum.”

He said, “We have the resources to harness many types of energy here in northern Michigan…”

Benishek’s television ads are warm and fuzzy, mostly showing him in doctor’s whites with stethoscope hanging from his neck as he interacts with admiring patients. One spot had him with a child that aides said was a grandchild.

Cannon of late has had stops in both peninsulas, including Marquette and Houghton above the Mackinac Bridge, and Traverse City, Petoskey, and Cheboygan below it.

Cannon, who also has been stressing veterans’ issues on the trail, is airing an effective television ad that begins:

“My entire life has been about service. Throughout my professional military and law enforcement careers, and even in my community involvement, I have lived the values of sacrifice and service every day. People have counted on me to step up, serve our community, and protect our way of life in northern Michigan.”

He then notes, “I wore a uniform” for 40 years—and the ad shows all of the uniforms, as well as the badge he wore “for 18 years as sheriff.”

Cannon concludes that while he no longer wears a uniform, “an old soldier always serves. And an old sheriff always answers the call.”

It’s the best television ad I have seen Up North since an ad I previously noted by GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land showing a couple of youngsters mocking moves by Washington politicians.

A Vietnam veteran, Cannon served as a major general in the Michigan National Guard and, as described in his campaign biography: “was deployed multiple times around the world to keep America safe, including tours in Iraq.

“While in Iraq, Cannon oversaw military police operations as Deputy Commanding General for Detainee Operations and U.S. Forces-Iraq Provost Marshal


The race has an interesting dynamic: Benishek as surgeon and lawmaker has long served veterans. Cannon is one on many fronts.

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.

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