ESCANABA - Congressman Dan Benishek said his main concern is jobs and how to increase them in the 1st Congressional District.
Benishek was in Escanaba Thursday, part of a tour of the U.P. with Gov. Rick Snyder. Benishek made previous stops in Manistique, Iron Mountain and Menominee this week. He attended the U.P. State Fair while in Escanaba.
In an interview Thursday, Benishek disputed statements made by Democrat Gary McDowell recently. McDowell is challenging Benishek for his congressional seat in the November general election. In an interview last week, McDowell said Benishek was not protecting the Great Lakes from mercury contamination. He said Benishek voted to nullify EPA rules for cement plant emissions and develop new rules that would go into effect in 2017.
Benishek says that's not true. He said he voted to delay the EPA rules, not to decrease them. Benishek said he voted for the delay to give businesses time to determine how they would fund the EPA changes.
"It would have cost people jobs." said Benishek. "It would have shut plants down."
It will allow companies time to determine how they will be able to afford improvements," he added.
During an interview last week, McDowell also said Benishek is failing to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. He said Benishek voted to cut funding to stop Asian carp infestation.
Benishek said this is not true. Benishek cited that he is a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan group that advocates for the Great Lakes. Benishek added he is also a cosponsor of the Stop Asian Carp Act.
Benishel said efforts to stop Asian carp are still adequately funded and have not been eliminated.
"I'm not against the Great Lakes. That's not true," Benishek said. "I've lived here my entire life."
Benishek said the message residents have been giving him on his latest tour is the need for jobs in the area. He said that was the same message he was given during his "100 in 100" tour this summer. During that tour, Benishek visited 100 different businesses in the 1st District.
Benishek added there is also a need for vocational training in the area so residents can learn the skills for jobs that exist now and in the future.
One of the efforts he mentioned is the possibility of reopening a vocational center that had closed in Dickinson County. Benishek learned of the center while talking to business and community leaders there this week. Benishek said perhaps a public-private partnership could revive the center.
Benishel is also scheduled to visit the Marquette area.