ESCANABA - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek has officially announced his re-election campaign for Michigan's 1st Congressional District seat.
Benishek stopped by the Daily Press recently on his way downstate to visit new areas the district gained from reapportionment, and addressed his thoughts on recent poll numbers and some national issues.
"It's been, amazingly, two years since I did this kickoff in the last cycle, and I can't believe two years has gone by since that time," said Benishek, of this year's campaign kick-off.
Benishek, a Republican from Crystal Falls, said he has not really been following poll numbers for the next election, where he is being challenged by Democrat Gary McDowell, of Rudyard. Recent poll numbers from the independent Public Policy Polling indicate McDowell would lead Benishek 46 to 41 percent in a hypothetical match, with just 32 percent of voters approving of Benishek's job.
"That's the campaign side and, really, I'm not following all that that much," he said. "I'm pretty much trying to take care of my job in Washington and being a representative of the campaign people. I think that I've been pretty well received in the district and it doesn't seem to reflect the support I've been getting from the people I've been meeting on the road."
Benishek said he plans to keep doing his job, and if people want him to be re-elected he is "happy to get their support."
"This isn't a career for me. I'm just putting in my time here and hopefully it will last the three terms that I'm willing to serve, and if not, then I'll go back to being a doctor," he said.
As for who he'd like to see secure the Republican nomination for the 2012 Presidential Election, he said he supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I think a President Romney will do a good job for us," said Benishek. "We need to improve the economy, try to create some policies that will allow our small businesses to flourish, and create jobs here in Northern Michigan, and I think he's the man for the job."
He also cited Romney's ability to balance a budget in Massachusetts working with a Democratic Legislature and his long career in business as two additional reasons why he supports him, saying he would be "happy to work with a Romney administration."
With recent news of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan opening fire and killing Afghan civilians in the middle of the night, Benishek also voiced his disdain for troops remaining in Afghanistan.
"I'm against our troops being in Afghanistan, quite frankly," he said. "I may differ from a Republican majority on that, but I just think we should be out of there."
Benishek traveled to Afghanistan just last year and spoke with family members of some of the troops, saying the rules of engagement there are not the best.
"The mother of one of the troops told me that her son was not allowed to shoot at the enemy that was shooting at the guy next to him (a fellow American soldier)," explained Benishek. "He was not allowed to shoot until the enemy started shooting at him personally."
He said those serving there are getting killed and serving multiple tours of duty has put troops under "a lot of stress."
"With the rules of engagement that we have, and the message I got from being over there with the guys on the ground, I just think we should be out of there," he said.
As for the higher gas prices across the nation, he believes the U.S. needs to produce more oil here at home.
"They want to build this pipeline to the refineries in the Gulf and the administration put a stop to it. That's just ridiculous," said Benishek, referring to a proposed pipeline project the Obama administration opposes.
"Everybody is pretty frustrated about the price of gas, as am I, but if we don't produce it here at home, we have to import it and that just costs more money," said Benishek.
He said, although the U.S. is "producing more of our own energy now than we ever have been," the nation could be producing even more. He estimated the U.S. could probably become independent by producing its own oil in just approximately 10 to 20 years.
"This is a big issue," he said. "Oil comes out of everybody's pocket right off the top. You've got to go to work, and up here in the Upper Peninsula, where people are scattered all about ... it takes a chunk out of your pocket."