Politics

How things have changed for Michigan congressional candidate Dan Benishek

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

Oh how things have changed for Dr. Dan Benishek.

The Republican, appearing on the ballot today for the Michigan congressional seat that’s long been held by Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak, didn’t have a website, campaign staff or much of a war chest before March 21.

But then Stupak — a pro-lifer who was the last hope for those wanting President Obama’s health-care bill to die — voted for the sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health-care system. Hundreds of people vented their frustration with Stupak by donating money — often 5 or 10 dollars — to Benishek, a physician and first-time candidate.

The Daily Caller spoke to Benishek in March when the dollars started coming in, and he sounded almost overwhelmed. “I just want to do a good job,” the new candidate said then. “I just can’t believe what’s going on. I’m trying my best to be good.”

But fast-forward to today — when he’s facing six Republicans, including an aggressive campaign of state Sen. Jason Allen — and he sounds confident, like a completely different candidate.

“It’s been an amazing ride to tell you the truth,” Benishek said Monday afternoon by phone, after a day of campaigning in his Upper Peninsula district.

As for how things have changed, Benishek now has a spiffy website and campaign consultants (and the ability to fundraise online, which was not always available). When Stupak dropped out of the race, a host of other candidates jumped into the contest.

The number of volunteers who have joined his campaign has stunned him, he says. Even Joe the Plumber of  2008 election fame has stumped with him. Yet, as he looks back on the primary, another volunteer stands out: a 75-year-old retired dentist who has been to over 2,000 homes, going door-to-door for him.

“I mean I can’t keep up with the brochures,” Benishek said with a laugh while talking about how the die-hard supporter kept calling him demanding more campaign literature to distribute.

He said he never really expected the rough tussle between candidates he has experienced. “I was never in politics before in my life,” he said. “When you haven’t done it before, you don’t know who to trust, you don’t know what to do and it’s definitely been an experience.”

Voters head to the polls for primaries in three states today — Michigan, Missouri and Kansas — where several key races will be decided.

In Michigan, Attorney General Mike Cox, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder are competing in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Michigan state House Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero are facing off in the Democratic primary.

In Missouri, Republican Rep. Roy Blunt and Democrat Robin Carnahan are expected to win their respective party’s nominations for the U.S. Senate. Blunt is facing nine Republicans in his primary that includes a Tea Party challenger, state Sen. Chuck Purgason.

In Kansas, watch the Republican Senate primary between U.S. Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt for Senate. The winner of the primary is expected to win in November, as the Democrats have not fielded a competitive candidate.

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