By Michele Bourdieu
HANCOCK -- Houghton County Democrats filled their new office in Hancock Friday afternoon, Nov. 2, in anticipation of a visit by Michigan First District U.S. Congressional Candidate Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard), who is running against incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Benishek on the Nov. 6 ballot.
McDowell, arriving from Ironwood and stopping in Hancock on his way to Marquette and Munising on his whirlwind weekend tour of the district, received an enthusiastic welcome from local supporters. McDowell encouraged them to "get out the vote" -- knock on one more door, make one more phone call -- in these last few days before the election.
"It's who gets the vote out -- that's what's going to decide this election," McDowell said.
He reminded his supporters to help those who might need encouragement to go to the polls. One example he gave was the situation of "single moms in their 30s" with their multiple responsibilities. Voting is one more thing they have to do, and they might "need a little nudge," he said.
"We're all part of the same community," McDowell added.
Local Democratic candidates visit with Gary McDowell, right, during his Nov. 2 stop in Hancock. Pictured, from left, they are John Laitinen, candidate for re-election as Franklin Township Trustee; Rick Kasprzak, candidate for District 1 Houghton County Commissioner; Anton Pintar, candidate for re-election as District 3 Houghton County Commissioner; Mike Makinen, Houghton County Prosecutor running for re-election; and Scott Dianda, candidate for Michigan House of Representatives 110th District.
McDowell spoke about his commitment to seniors to protect Social Security and Medicare so they won't have to negotiate with a private insurance company, as his opponent, "Dr. Dan" Benishek, would have them do under his plan to privatize these government programs on which so many seniors depend.
Protecting the Great Lakes is another issue McDowell emphasized to this audience who, like himself, live so close to Lake Superior. In fact, Michigan's First District includes shorelines on three of the Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan and Huron -- making this a key issue in a race against a Republican who opposes the Clean Water Act and the EPA.
"You've got to be fighting for the Great Lakes -- protect the Lakes, not put them in peril," McDowell said.
He pointed out that, according to a University of Michigan study, 526,000 jobs in Michigan alone are tied to the Great Lakes -- in agriculture, manufacturing, shipping and tourism.*
McDowell told Keweenaw Now he was aware of Benishek's statements questioning climate change (Benishek was booed and ridiculed for this recently in Petoskey, Mich.**)
"I think (climate change) is real," McDowell said. "Man is at the least partially responsible for climate change. We've got to get serious about it -- not talk about it. We can't solve a problem until we come to the realization that it's real."
Scott Dianda, candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives 110th District seat now held by Republican Matt Huuki, spoke to Keweenaw Now about his support for McDowell.
"We need a congressman who is going to be there for the people for the First Congressional seat," Dianda said. "Gary is a person that you put your trust in -- that will
take care of people and will be accessible to all -- unlike what we have now -- a non-existent congressman. Gary will work every day for Michigan, and Gary will work with all the local representatives in Michigan to bring Michigan back to number one."
Gary McDowell indicates his strong support for Scott Dianda of Calumet, who is running against incumbent Matt Huuki for the Michigan House of Representatives 110th District seat. Also pictured are, from left, Clarence McDonald, who represents the retired United Auto Workers; Brian Rendel, Houghton County Democratic Party co-chair; and John Laitinen, Franklin Township Trustee, who is being challenged by two Republicans, including Mary Sears, local Tea Party leader.
Brian Rendel, Houghton County Democratic Party co-chair, joined McDowell in support of Scott Dianda's candidacy.
"Scott's going to make him (Huuki) a one-termer," Rendel said.
McDowell added, "You have good leadership in this county."
"I really love the bridge symbol on this logo -- the bridge that brings people together," Mohr said.
Pat Bacon of Hancock expressed her support for McDowell and her determination to keep a promise she made to Benishek.
"I think he (Gary McDowell) is a good guy, and I wrote a letter to Benishek about 18 months ago and promised I would make sure he doesn't get re-elected," Bacon said. "I believe very strongly that we have fantastic resources here -- our beauty and our water -- and we don't have to grovel for a few extractive jobs at the expense of our water and our countryside due to the costs from their pollution that taxpayers end up paying."
Clarence McDonald, who represents retired United Auto Workers, recently addressed Benishek in a letter to the editor published in the Daily Mining Gazette.
"I have seen your campaign ads on tv with you dressed in scrubs," McDonald writes. "I am not impressed (Doctor Dan). I do not care about your career as a doctor, good or bad. That is all in the past. Congressman Dan is the record I care about. You state you want to save Medicare, when in fact you want to force seniors to buy into private insurance with vouchers. ... You have voted for lifetime medical coverage for all congressmen, which covers you, Congressman Dan. You want your coverage, but what about the residents of the 1st District?
"I vote to fire you, and replace you with Gary McDowell. he has assured me he will do all he can to help the seniors and residents of the 1st District," McDonald adds.***
* According to Wikipedia, the First District is the largest congressional district in Michigan and the second-largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River by land area. Its boundaries contain much of the northeastern part of the Lower Peninsula in addition to the entire Upper Peninsula. Altogether, the district makes up about 44 percent of the land area of the state of Michigan. It contains the second-longest shoreline of any district in the United States, behind Alaska's At-large congressional district.
** See the Michigan League of Conservation Voters story we reprinted (Oct. 23, 2012) on Benishek's comments: "Michigan LCV: Benishek booed for climate denial in Petoskey."
*** Click here to read the rest of Clarence McDonald's letter, published Oct. 31, 2012, in the Daily Mining Gazette.