Former State Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, got a boost today in his effort to win a rematch for the 1st District Congressional seat representing the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted McDowell’s race for additional resources from the committee, the national campaign arm aimed at turning the House back to Democratic control in 2012.
The 1st District contest was one of 36 named to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” campaign for surpassing fundraising, organization and infrastructure goals, according to the committee. The seat is the only one in Michigan targeted so far.
The vast district, the largest in Michigan, was represented for 18 years by Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who announced his retirement after playing a controversial and critical role with anti-abortion Democrats that paved the way for the passage of President Obama’s healthcare legislation.
Stupak’s 2010 retirement opened the door for a fierce general election fight between Stupak-backed McDowell and Republican Dan Benishek, a former U.P. surgeon who had never been in political office but was energized to run by his opposition to “Obamacare.”
Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, won the race 52 to 41 percent as part of the GOP wave that turned the House back to Republican control and weakened the Democrats’ majority in the Senate. Since, the divided Congress has largely been gridlocked, nearly prompting a government shutdown over heated spending debates. Congress now has an all-time low approval rating.
Benishek is seeking reelection and recently released a 196-page annual report on his efforts so far in the House.
“I don’t profess to have all the answers…but my main focus has been to craft job creating policies and a stronger fiscal foundation for the government…and while we’ve made progress, we still have much work left to do,” Benishek said in the report.
McDowell will get financial, communications, grassroots and strategic support as part of the Red to Blue campaign. He faces a Democratic primary challenge from Derek Bailey, tribal chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
“Our momentum continues to build to take back this seat from Rep. Benishek who is not looking out for the regular folks of Northern Michigan and the U.P.” Gary McDowell said in a statement. “I am honored that so many people in Northern Michigan have joined our grassroots campaign to protect Medicare and Social Security, create jobs, reduce wasteful spending and fight to protect our way of life.”