SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- State Representative Gary McDowell launched a new campaign ad on Oct. 6, his fourth television ad so far, in his campaign to represent Michigan’s 1st Congressional District in Congress, the seat now held by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), who plans to retire.*
The ad, which will run across northern Michigan, highlights tea party candidate Dan Benishek’s alarming views on Great Lakes issues. It is McDowell’s second ad on Great Lakes issues, which are particularly important in the nation’s only congressional district to border three of the five lakes.
"Dan Benishek and I disagree on a lot and it’s important that voters know what those differences mean for the health of the Great Lakes here in northern Michigan," McDowell said. "The Great Lakes are too important to our economy and way of life here in northern Michigan to put in the hands of Dan Benishek, who wants to gut the laws that protect them."
Benishek has frequently been quoted as saying he would work to repeal most regulations and curtail the authority of agencies like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that enforce clean water laws. In July, he told the Iron Mountain Daily News, "the purpose of government is fill pot holes, kill terrorists and get out of the way."** Benishek has also commented specifically on the role of the EPA, saying, "We need to limit the EPA ..."***
McDowell spoke to reporters yesterday, Oct. 6, in a telephone press conference on Great Lakes issues.
"We (in Michigan) have more coastline on the Great Lakes than any other state," McDowell said.
He noted his new TV ad is intended to show how greatly his position on the Great Lakes differs from Benishek's.
"Benishek has said repeatedly that he doesn't think we need any (government) regulation," McDowell said.
Unlike Benishek, McDowell said he believes government has to have a role in protecting the Great Lakes. As an example, McDowell mentioned an oil spill early this week in Lake Huron, to which the Coast Guard immediately responded. They are also trying to identify the cause and responsibility, McDowell added -- something he feels is necessary as part of regulation -- while Benishek has even stated he doesn't care who caused the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.****
McDowell also noted the delayed response to the oil spill near Kalamazoo and said he believed more rapid response is necessary.
McDowell told Keweenaw Now his priorities for protecting the Great Lakes include stopping sources of pollution, closing the canal in Chicago that's allowing the invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes, solving the problem of invasives entering the lakes through ballast water, preventing water diversion and working with Canada on agreements to protect the Great Lakes.
"Their (Canadians') pollution laws are very lax," McDowell said. "They do allow some drilling of the Great Lakes, which I'm opposed to."
McDowell said he favors a ban on drilling in the Great Lakes -- one that Canada would respect as well.
Concerning the sulfide mining issue and Lake Superior, McDowell repeated his position that the mining needs to be done according to Michigan laws governing non-ferrous metallic mining.
Asked by one of the reporters whether he thought his message on protecting the Great Lakes would resonate in a district now concerned about the economy and the need for jobs, McDowell said he considers protecting the Great Lakes an economic issue.
"I wouldn't call it an environmental issue; I'd call it also an economic issue," he said.
In the state legislature McDowell has worked to protect and defend the Great Lakes and says he will continue that fight in Congress. He has supported legislation to prevent diversion of Great Lakes water and to help fight invasive species like Asian carp.
"Michigan is defined by the Great Lakes," McDowell said. "We have an incredible responsibility to the people of Michigan to be good stewards of the largest source of fresh water on the planet. By protecting the Great Lakes, and all of Michigan's water, we are protecting what makes us special."
Click here to view Gary McDowell's recent television ad on the Great Lakes.
* Stupak recently endorsed McDowell's candidacy for 1st District Congressman. In the endorsement, Stupak said McDowell "has pledged to continue the fight to protect our Great Lakes ..." See our Oct. 4 posting of this press release.
** Click here to read this July 22, 2010 Iron Mountain Daily News article quoting Benishek.
*** Click here to read an interview with Benishek published last spring, before the primary.
**** Read the Oct. 6 AP article on the Coast Guard response in the Chicago Tribune.
Photo of Gary McDowell courtesy votemcdowell.com.