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State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, is all but certain to jump into a 2016 Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District.

As the GOP’s Mackinac Island conference came to a close Sunday, Casperson said he’s studying the race closely following Republican Congressman DanBenishek’s abrupt decision last week to reverse course and not seek a fourth term as planned.

“We’re definitely looking at it,” Casperson told The Detroit News.

Former Sen. Jason Allen of Traverse City and state Rep. Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle also are reportedly considering campaigns for the GOP nomination next year. Allen lost the 2010 Republican primary to Benishek by 15 votes.

On the Democratic side, former state party chairman Lon Johnson of Kalkaska is the presumed frontrunner, though former Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon says he is challenging him in the primary. Benishek defeated Cannon in the 2014 general election by seven percentage points.

Casperson has his eyes set on Johnson, though, attacking the longtime Democratic political operative’s views as too liberal for northern Michigan’s brand of Democrats concerned about onerous government regulations stifling job opportunities.

“I think he walks hand-in-hand with the Sierra Clubs of the world,” Casperson said about Johnson. “I would think he’s in trouble with his own base.”

Miller formally endorses Fiorina for president

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller on Wednesday became the second member of Congress to endorse former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for president, four days after hosting the Republican candidate at an influential Michigan GOP conference.

The former California U.S. Senate candidate and computer company chief executive has surged in the polls after two strong debate performances and received the most attention at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference this past weekend on Mackinac Island.

Miller, the Harrison Township Republican, who chairs the House Administration Committee and is vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said earlier this year that she will not seek re-election from the House but told The Detroit News over the weekend she is considering a 2018 run for governor. She called Fiorina a “bold and dynamic conservative leader.”

“Carly is a woman who understands the economic challenges America faces in today’s global economy and is ready to put into place policies that will help every American achieve their full potential,” Miller said in a statement.

“Carly is a woman who has a proven record of bold, decisive leadership in the private sector, and also a clear understanding of the national security threats we face in a dangerous world, both at home and abroad.

Rep.Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, earlier this week became the first member of Congress to endorse Fiorina.

Fiorina was a hit at the Mackinac forum, where her appearance was credited for a sold-out Saturday dinner where 1,007 diners were seated. Several Michigan Republicans attending the biennial conference said they were impressed by Fiorina’s command of domestic and foreign affairs during last Wednesday’s GOP presidential candidates’ debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

“I think we have been managing the decline of this great nation for far too long,” Fiorina said in the Grand Hotel.

‘Pawn’ star a proxy for Rubio at conference

There were five Republican presidential candidates barnstorming Mackinac Island last weekend for votes, but another celebrity was drawing attention at the state GOP’s 31st biennial leadership conference.

Las Vegas pawn broker Rick Harrison, star of the History Channel show “Pawn Stars,” was on the island Saturday and Sunday as a campaign surrogate for Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who did not attend the conference.

Harrison drew about 400 people to the Mackinac Island’s Yankee Rebel Tavern on Saturday for a Rubio campaign event that included U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland.

On Sunday morning, two dozen College Republicans climbed the stairs to the Grand Hotel’s fifth-floor Cupola bar to get their picture with Harrison, who gave brief remarks about why he’s supporting Rubio for president. Grand Hotel owner Dan Musser III and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, also showed up to get their pictures with the reality TV star.

Harrison said he’s never really been engaged in politics having a two-hour breakfast with Rubio earlier this year in Los Angeles.

“First time in my life I had ever sat down with a politician for that amount of time and not once did (Rubio) say ‘the party, the party,’” Harrison said. “When you talk with the individually, it’s the party, the party, the party, give me money, give me money, give me money. It’s just the way politicians are. He genuinely cares.”

Harrison said he was impressed with Rubio’s views on shrinking the size and scope of American government.

Being a history buff, Harrison educated roomful of conservative college students about how most of London’s watchmakers went out business in the 19th Century “because in England there were 17 different unions required to make a watch.”

“That’s why in the 1890s the U.S. had all of these innovative watches and they were making them the same way they were a hundred years ago,” Harrison said. “Less government makes better business.”

Harrison pivoted from the kind of history lesson he recounts on his TV show to taking a shot at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and Rubio’s Florida political mentor, former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I truly believe that a vote for Trump or Bush is a vote for Hillary (Clinton), because I don’t think they’re electable in the general election,” Harrison said.

Harrison said his campaigning for Rubio is costing him money.

“... I’m a celebrity and I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of endorsements because I’m doing this – and that’s how much I believe in him,” Harrison said.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, David Shepardson

“Chris Christie and I are very similar in size, shape, bombast and confrontation.” – Former state Sen. Bruce Patterson talking about the New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate.

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