ESCANABA - Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard) is taking a second crack at Michigan's 1st Congressional District seat - this time with his former competitor's voting record at his side. While McDowell lost to Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) in the 2010 election for the same seat, he says he's looking for a rematch in 2012.
Recently, McDowell stopped in to the Daily Press to discuss his new game plan, as well as his qualifications for leading Michigan's largest congressional district.
According to McDowell, a fifth generation farmer and small businessman from Rudyard, his motivation for wanting a rematch comes from his disappointment with those currently in Washington.
"It just feels like there's nobody looking out for us - for working families in Northern Michigan," he said. "It just appears like Washington has become so dysfunctional, so broken. The Democrats just don't seem to really get that we have to cut spending, and the Republicans aren't looking out for average, working families here in Northern Michigan."
McDowell said Benishek quickly became a part of this problem.
"Dan Benishek was quoted recently as defending the oil companies, saying they pay their fair share of taxes. Most of them don't pay any taxes and they receive subsidy checks from the American taxpayers," he said. "Right now, Benishek is the problem. He went to Washington saying he was going to fix the problem, and he's actually become part of it."
McDowell explained that Benishek's voting record speaks for itself.
"One of the first things he's (Benishek) done is voted to end Medicare," he said. "He's also taken some votes against our economic investments we need here in Northern Michigan to create jobs."
Benishek also voted to eliminate Essential Air Service, said McDowell, a critical funding source for local airports.
"He voted to end Essential Air Service which serves the Escanaba airport," he said. "This airport will not have commercial air service without this help."
What's the reason McDowell didn't fair well in the last election? According to him, it was due to low voter turnout - including a substantially low number of young voters.
"Last time the election was one of those 'cycle' elections ... and voter turnout was very, very low," he said. "I see this (2012) as being an average turnout year - it will be a totally different race."
In addition, McDowell points out people have had a chance to view their government as it stands, and he is betting they aren't happy.
"The American people have lost confidence in their government and its ability to lead because of its functionality - especially in Congress," he said. "That's why we have to change that; somebody's got to look out for us first."
His history as a public servant, including years as a volunteer fireman and emergency medical technician, his involvement in numerous organizations, as well as his experience as state representative for Michigan's 107th District, will assist him in being that somebody, explained McDowell.
"I try to find results and get things accomplished," he said. "We need to bring more of that to Washington - people who are willing to reach out, look across the table, look you in the eye, and say, 'What can we do to get things accomplished?'"
The recent redistricting of congressional districts will not have much of an effect on the 1st Congressional District, said McDowell, since it still includes the same population who voted in the last election. These voters, he pointed out, will most likely be disappointed with the work Benishek has done thus far, and ready for a replacement.
As far as a recent accusation from Benishek's spokesperson regarding possible "scare tactics" McDowell used against Benishek in the last election, McDowell said this just isn't true.
"The only words that I ever spoke on Dan Benishek's stands were exactly his own words," he said. "He's probably trying to run from them, but they are his words, and his actions have shown that's just what he's doing."
With 2012 right around the corner, McDowell notes he will spend the next months organizing and putting together the resources needed to effectively run his campaign. His platform will be much the same as it was in 2010, he added, with his "total commitment and love for Northern Michigan", as well as his desire for compromise and creating a sensible economic plan leading the way.
"If anyone thinks that we can just cut our way out of this and create jobs and recover - that's not doable," McDowell said. "And you can't just raise taxes and continue to spend. We have to invest in the critical infrastructure we need to have job creation and continue to grow."
The number one way we're going to get our economy back is by putting our people back to work," he added. "That's the number one issue."