Birthdate: April 20, 1952
Birth Place: Iron River, MI, United States
Residence: Crystal Falls, MI
First Elected: 2010
District: District 1
Dan Benishek was born in Iron River, Mich., in the state's Upper Peninsula, and now lives in Crystal Falls. He earned a bachelor's in biology in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a medical degree in 1978 from Wayne State University.
Benishek has been a general surgeon in Iron Mountain since 1983. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, and a member of the National Rifle Association.
He was elected to the U.S. in 2010.
Benishek and his wife, Judy, have five children.
As Dan Benishek seeks a second term in Congress in 2012, he is using a strategy that served him well two years earlier: running as an outsider.
His campaign team refers to him as "Dr. Dan," emphasizing his profession as a surgeon in Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula instead of his status as an incumbent. His initial television ad described him as a hard worker who "saved my money, went to college and became a doctor" after his father's death. "I approve this message because the career politicians won't fix Washington, but a doctor can," he said.
Benishek considers health care his strong suit, saying his outrage over the 2010 health care reform law inspired him to enter politics that year. He continued to call for the law's repeal during his first term. Yet Democrats considered him vulnerable on Medicare because his northern Michigan district, one of the largest east of the Mississippi River, is big draw for retirees.
Benishek was among the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top targets and faces a rematch with former state Rep. Gary McDowell, who lost to Benishek in 2010. The committee's independent expenditure arm has reserved $515,000 in ad time in the district through Election Day 2012. One commercial repeatedly plays footage of Benishek saying that "privatizing Social Security and Medicare is the only way to do it."
He kept a low profile during his first term, compiling a reliably conservative voting record while tending to side with the GOP leadership instead of hard-line tea party Republicans when the caucus was divided. Although an enthusiastic supporter of the budget plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, Benishek voted for the 2011 compromise bill to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government default. He also backed a $5.9 billion measure to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from doubling.
Benishek emerged from obscurity to win election in 2010. He originally planned to challenge Rep. Bart Stupak, but the nine-term Democrat chose to retire after playing a key role in securing House approval of the health care reform bill.
When Stupak bowed out, Republican state Sen. Jason Allen moved into the district and sought the nomination. Benishek had support from tea party groups and other conservative Republicans in the massive 1st District, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula and a large swath of the northern Lower Peninsula. He beat Allen in the primary by just 15 votes. Allen didn't ask for a re-count in the interest of party unity. Benishek easily defeated McDowell in the general election.
Source: Associated Press