MARQUETTE - Three candidates are challenging U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, for another two-year term of office, representing the 1st Congressional District.
Those challengers include Democrat Gary McDowell of Rudyard, Green Party candidate Ellis Boal of downstate Charlevoix and Libertarian candidate Emily Salvette of downstate Ann Arbor.
The first district includes all of the Upper Peninsula and the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula. Election day is Tuesday.
Each of the four candidates was asked to provide some background details about themselves they thought voters would want to know. They were also asked why voters should vote for them and what three priorities they would have if elected to office. Word limits were imposed.
Benishek described his background this way: "I grew up in Iron River where I lost my father in a mining accident. My mother and grandmother raised me and taught me the value of hard work by having me haul beer, make beds and do other odd jobs in the family hotel.
"I first became involved in politics in 2010 after the stimulus bill passed. I was disgusted that Washington was shouldering our children with trillions of dollars of debt by spending money we didn't have on a bill they didn't read. Washington was threatening the American Dream and I refused to stand idly by."
On why voters should choose him, Benishek said, "I haven't spent the last 30 years running for political office. I've spent it helping seniors, veterans and families because I'm a doctor.
"I haven't voted to raise taxes on families and job creators, or supported a stimulus wasting billions, I've been running a medical practice. I know the pressures small business owners face with over regulation and taxes.
"Career politicians from both parties got us into this mess. They were spending money that we didn't have on bills they didn't read. Northern Michigan cannot afford more of the same failed policies out of career politicians, like my opponent former State Rep. Gary McDowell. We need citizen legislators, like me, who have years of private sector experience that they can utilize when voting on legislation. I am a doctor who got into politics not to make a career out of it, but to help our children and grandchildren have the same chance at the American Dream we did."
When asked about his three priorities, Benishek said, "It's about jobs, the economy and healthcare.
I know many families in Northern Michigan are hurting right now. In this tough economy, a lot of moms and dads in our area are finding it hard to pay their bills and plan for the future. It's tough to find work. We need to get this economy moving. I have spent the past two years going around the district on various tours meeting with constituents and business leaders and they told me how the uncertain tax code, the new healthcare law and the overregulation are hurting their ability to hire and succeed.
"That is why focus in Washington is on three things: replacing and repealing the new healthcare law, which guts $716 billion from Medicare, that's $2 billion here in the 1st District and $133 million here in Marquette; simplifying the tax code so that our businesses can plan for the future; and reducing the over-burdensome regulations that hurt our job creators.
"If Washington promotes pro-small business legislation that empowers the people it will pay dividends. The government does not create jobs, small businesses do. My goal in Washington is to create a business climate that encourages hiring so that Northern Michiganders can find jobs, to pay the bills and take care of our families."
McDowell described his background this way: "I am a lifelong resident of Rudyard and a fifth generation farmer. My brothers and I farm hay and broker hay across the Eastern U.P. I am a former UPS truck driver and have always been involved in my community as a volunteer EMT and firefighter for Rudyard Township and also served on the county board and as a state representative. I am married and have three wonderful daughters."
On why voters should vote for him, McDowell said, "I am running for Congress because no one in Washington is looking out for the U.P. Some Democrats aren't serious about cutting spending and it seems like Republicans don't care about regular people who have to work for a living.
"In the U.P., the number one issue is jobs. We want to work. We just need a Congressman who will work with us to fight for U.P. jobs - we don't have that right now. I am also very concerned about protecting Medicare and Social Security for current retirees and future generations and protecting our Great Lakes and the 500,000 jobs they provide here in Michigan.
"I have lived and worked my entire life in the U.P. I know what it takes to make a living here and how it is so important to protect our way of life and what we have here. I will do that in Congress."
On the top three priorities he would have in office, McDowell said, "Many Democrats in Washington aren't serious about reducing spending and it seems like Republicans don't care what happens to regular people who work for a living. And no one is looking out for Northern Michigan. We need to responsibly reduce the deficit and get our economy back on track.
"We must protect Medicare and Social Security for this generation and for those that follow. I oppose privatizing Social Security and oppose any effort to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
"We must preserve and protect the Great Lakes. They are a treasure of immeasurable beauty and they define our way of life. They also provide more than half a million jobs right here in Michigan. I will fight to protect our lake economy and ensure they are protected for our children and grandchildren."
Boal provided the following information on his background: "I am an attorney who has litigated cases across the country, setting important precedents in the field of labor law. I am a community activist in Charlevoix, being a leader in the successful fight to keep Walmart out and having helped to organize many anti-war rallies. Currently I am suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in the Michigan Court of Appeals for refusing to apply the rules for injection wells onto frack wells. I am also collecting signatures to put a constitutional prohibition of horizontal fracking in Michigan - and the storage of frack waste - on the 2014 ballot."
Boal said voters should vote for him because "I am pro-choice, pro-Medicare-for-all, single payer health care, pro-labor and collective bargaining, pro-immigrant, pro-Green, and pro-keeping Social Security public. I say eliminate corporate personhood and raise taxes on the wealthy. I will work to stop fracking, global warming, U.S. support of war in Iran, U.S. support of Israel, and Rio Tinto's unsafe metal sulfide mine at Eagle Rock in the Upper Peninsula."
On his top three priorities, Boal said, "The one issue I am currently most involved with is a ballot attempt to ban horizontal fracking for natural gas in the state. Other issues of interest: Shoring up the Social Security Trust Fund with a new .5 percent tax on financial transactions, removing the regressive cap on FICA withholdings and applying FICA to investment income, equating the tax rate for long-term capital gains with that for earned income, enacting progressive tax rates for earned income, and nationalizing the federal reserve.
On fracking: "Horizontal fracking involves injecting 5 million gallons of water and chemicals - some of which are secret and carcinogenic - miles into the earth to retrieve natural gas locked into hard deep shale rock. The process can bring radioactive material to the surface, where the operators try to truck it to shallower disposal wells. Disposal wells are the ones which can cause earthquakes. In the process, some of the product escapes, and is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
"The DEQ refuses to apply Michigan's rules for injection wells to frack wells. Were it to enforce the regulations, operators would have to disclose certain frack chemicals before drilling starts, enabling nearby landowners to do baseline testing efficiently. Today, DEQ protocols require disclosure only after a well is completed. The suit means that even if enacted, proposed strict new regulations, now in committee at the legislature, would likely not be enforced either. A ban is the only way. (See: letsbanfracking.org)."
Salvette described her background this way: "I have lived in Michigan most of my life. I have a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's in telecommunication arts, both from the University of Michigan. My husband of 35 years has always worked in the auto industry. We have two adult sons and one granddaughter. I have been involved in the Libertarian Party since 1980, serving as Michigan state chair twice and on the Libertarian National Committee. I have never wavered in my belief that people have the right and responsibility to manage their own lives and property. Liberty is important to me."
On the question of why voters should choose her, Salvette said, "If you think government is too big and too expensive, you should vote for me. I am the only pro-choice, anti-war, free market capitalist in the race, and the only candidate who will consistently support smaller, less expensive government. While I live in Ann Arbor, my concerns are the same as residents of the 1st District: reviving economic opportunity in Michigan; reducing the cost of government so we live within our means and getting government debt under control; ending politically motivated and expensive wars that do nothing to keep us safe; and restoring the political system our founders intended so it serves citizens, not burdens them."
Salvette detailed her three priorities:
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. election day.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.