Benishek endorses Casperson, as Allen joins race
Retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek is throwing his support behind state Sen. Tom Casperson to succeed him in Congress, just as Casperson is getting a challenger in the Republican primary against Benishek’s former rival.
Former state Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, on Thursday announced he’s joining the race for Benishek’s seat in the 1st Congressional District — the state’s largest encompassing most of northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula.
Allen, who lost a 2010 Republican primary to Benishek by 15 votes, signaled Thursday he would make Casperson’s past votes for raising taxes to pay for road repairs a contrast in the August GOP primary.
“It’s the taxes, man,” Allen said in a telephone interview. “I’m a person committed to limited taxation and making sure we spend within our own means.”
As he kicked off his second campaign for Congress, Allen signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge Thursday.
A veteran, Allen has served as a senior policy adviser for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency in the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs since 2001. Prior to that appointment, he spent two terms in the state Senate and two terms in the state House.
Allen launched his campaign from his family-owned business, Captain’s Quarters, a downtown Traverse City men’s clothing store of which he is vice president. Allen said he has resigned his state job to be a congressional candidate again.
Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, a former VA surgeon in his third term in Congress, endorsed Casperson on Thursday. The district leans Republican.
“I put my trust in Tom to continue the important work of reforming the VA health care system, so that our veterans get the care they deserve,” Benishek said in a statement.
“He has been a consistent voice working to grow our economy and enhance opportunities for workers. I know Tom will bring our values to Washington, and he has the experience and ability to get things done.”
Allen said he harbors no ill will toward Benishek after their closely fought primary in 2010 ended in the slimmest of margins.
“I thought I was honorable and right by not asking for a recount,” Allen said.
Two Democrats are also vying for Benishek’s seat, former state party chairman Lon Johnson of Kalkaska and Jerry Cannon, the former Kalkaska County sheriff who was Benishek’s Democratic opponent in 2014.
Johnson recently picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat who held the seat from 1993 to 2010.
The Michigan Democratic Party on Thursday criticized Allen and Casperson’s past votes against minimum wage increases.
“These two career politicians have no idea what working families in Michigan go through to make ends meet,” state Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon said in a statement.