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New Member: GOP’s Jack Bergman Claims Michigan’s 1st District

Incumbent GOP Rep. Dan. Benishek is retiring after three terms

Jack Bergman won his Michigan 1st District race. (Photo courtesy Jack Bergman for Congress Facebook page)
Jack Bergman won his Michigan 1st District race. (Photo courtesy Jack Bergman for Congress Facebook page)

Republican Jack Bergman has defeated Democrat Lon Johnson in Michigan’s 1st District, The Associated Press projects.

Bergman led Johnson 54 percent to 41 percent with 83 percent of precincts reporting. 

Incumbent GOP Rep. Dan. Benishek is retiring after three terms, honoring a pledge made in 2010 to stay in the House no longer than six years.

Michigan’s 1st District is made up of the sparsely populated areas from the state’s northern Lower Peninsula — no city population in the 1st exceeds 22,000 — and encompasses the entire Upper Peninsula.

[Election Results 2016]

The district has a GOP lean, but Democratic votes make for competitive elections, and environmental issues remain important to voters. Benishek won re-election by 7 points in 2014, and by less than 1,900 votes in 2012. President Barack Obama narrowly won the district in 2008.

Coming into Election Day, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rated the race as Tilts Republican.

The open race was closely watched because Democrats viewed it as possibly pick-up opportunity, and one that could help their long-shot bid to regain control of the House.

In Johnson, a former state Democratic party chairman, Democrats thought they had a strong candidate with a national fundraising network. Johnson is married to Julianna Smoot, a Democratic fundraiser who worked for Obama’s presidential campaigns.

[How ‘Dr. Dan’ Cured His Campaign Woes]

Bergman was commander of the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, retiring as a three-star general in 2009. His career included work as a pilot for Northwest Airlines and for a company that made hospital operating room equipment. He also started a firm that sold surgical microscopes and imaging equipment.

The member-elect is familiar with Congress from appearances as a witness before House and Senate committees from 2003 to 2009, when he headed the Reserve.

“What I would like to see is less showmanship in some of the hearings and more meat on the bone about the realities of the issues,” he said in an interview. “I was a little disappointed in a couple of the hearings that it was more political theater than it was substance.”

Bergman says the Veterans Affairs Committee would be a natural fit for him. He also mentions an interest in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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