ESCANABA - Democratic congressional candidate Jerry Cannon was in Escanaba Wednesday. Cannon hopes to win the U.S. House of Representatives seat now occupied by Republican Congressman Dan Benishek in 2014.
Cannon, of Fife Lake in the northern Lower Peninsula, is a Vietnam War veteran who continued his service outside of the Marine Corps by joining the National Guard and serving in tours in Cuba and Iraq.
"It's a values-based organization. It's a standards-based organization. You kind of learn this, everything's got to be done for the right reasons," said Cannon.
"There is a soft spot in my heart for veterans, without a doubt, I will be a strong champion advocate for veterans, and we've made tremendous progress but there's things that still need to be done," he added.
In addition to having a son who graduated from Michigan Technological University, Cannon, who identifies himself as being from "Northern Michigan," gained experience with the peninsula above the bridge.
"When I was in the National Guard I commanded all the Army engineer units that are in the U.P. Great, I mean just great, hard-working people. Blue collar, salt of the earth, I mean I come from the same background - it's just in the other part of the state," he said.
Following Vietnam, Cannon used the GI Bill to earn a degree in criminal justice from the University of Detroit in 1976. After spending time as a police officer, Cannon was elected Kalkaska County sheriff.
"I think I have something to offer. I'm a pretty pragmatic guy. I'm not overly partisan. I understand there will always be some partisanship in the process, but you know, even when I was the sheriff I was able to find a common ground and advance an issue, and I've had difficult years," said Cannon, adding that during his 18 years as the county's sheriff there were times when political affiliations caused disagreement.
"I had times when I had some members of my board of commissioners that were absolutely against me for no other reason than for my political party, but I was always able to find a way to find consensus and advance an issue for the common good," he said.
Cannon sees jobs and the economy as the greatest issues facing residents of Northern Michigan.
"There's young people, people with degrees, working two and three part-time jobs just trying to scratch out an existence to stay in this beautiful part of the country," he said. "So we need to create an economy where there is sustainable year-round jobs with a livable wage."
To help create jobs in Northern Michigan where forestry, mining, tourism and agriculture are major industries, Cannon believes the three state universities in the region should help to sustain those industries by working as incubators to develop the practices and technology needed.
"We should be working on the next level of technology and techniques to advance those industries for generations. Let those universities figure that out for us," he said.
While Cannon notes there is money in the private sector that could be invested, many people are waiting for changes in the economy. For the economy to become less uncertain for investors, small businesses need to prosper.
"For me in the Upper Peninsula and the Lower as well, it's small businesses that drive the engine of the local economy," said Cannon.
When asked why he was interested in running for Congress, Cannon expressed he was frustrated with the way Congress has been operating.
"In a word I'm just frustrated with some the things that are going on - maybe more so with the things that aren't going on, the things that aren't taken care of, the things that aren't a priority," he said.
Cannon noted the sequester, the debt limit battle, and the 16-day government shutdown which occurred earlier this month as examples of problems in Congress.
"The shutdown, I mean what in the world were people thinking? If you knew, if you knew that there was a risk of harming this economy and harming the reputation and the credibility of our economy to the world and you did it anyway because it was some kind of strategy to get something else then that's reckless," he said.
When asked about the performance of Congressman Benishek, Cannon stated he believed the representative was out of touch with his consituentcy.
"I think congressman Benishek is just out of touch with what's important to the district. I think he's out of step with what's important to people, regular, everyday, hardworking people across the district," said Cannon. "I think a number of his votes are out of bounds, certainly not in the best interest of the district as a whole."
Cannon said he was hopeful that he and his opponent would hold debates before facing each other on the November 2014 ballot.
"I assume that he believes that everything he's doing is the right thing to do and I believe that he and I would be a great contrast on the issues," he said.
Cannon noted he believes serving the district would be a privilege.
"For me it would be a privilege and an honor to be a congressman representing Michigan's 1st Congressional District, and understanding that 750,000 people get one vote and so I'm not promising this vote to anybody," said Cannon. "I'm not promising it to any political ideology ... I have no agenda of my own. It's what's best for the people of Michigan's 1st Congressional District."