- Associated Press - Thursday, January 14, 2016

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Jason Allen, a former Republican state legislator, entered the race Thursday for the U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Dan Benishek, who narrowly defeated Allen for the Republican nomination six years ago in Michigan’s northernmost district.

“I want to be a conservative voice for Upper Michigan,” Allen told The Associated Press ahead of his announcement Thursday morning at his family-owned clothing store in Traverse City. “It’s time we had a government that lived within its means, a tax system which was simple, flat and fair, and a regulatory system which fostered job growth instead of discouraging economic development.”

Allen, 52, served two terms in the state House and two terms in the Senate before running for Congress in 2010. He lost to Benishek, a political newcomer with tea party backing, by 15 votes in the GOP primary. Allen was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as senior policy adviser for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, a post he recently left to campaign for Congress.

He is the second Republican to enter the race in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District. State Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, another previous candidate for the congressional seat, announced his bid in November.

Benishek grabbed some of the spotlight from Allen on Thursday by endorsing Casperson, describing the former log trucking business operator as “a consistent voice working to grow our economy and enhance opportunities for workers.”

Democrats in the running are Lon Johnson, a former state party chairman, and Jerry Cannon, a retired Kalkaska County sheriff and Army National Guard major general who lost to Benishek in 2014.

The sprawling district, one of the largest east of the Mississippi River, covers the entire Upper Peninsula and a swath of the Lower Peninsula extending from Mason County on Lake Michigan to the Mackinac Bridge and southeast to Alcona County on Lake Huron.

It leans Republican but was represented in Congress for 18 years by Democrat Bart Stupak, who retired in 2010. Republican Mitt Romney carried the district with 54 percent of the vote in his 2012 presidential race, while President Barack Obama won there by 2 percentage points in 2008. Both parties consider it a priority this year.

Allen, who planned a series of announcements around the district, said he had signed an Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes. He told the AP he had never voted for a tax increase, while Casperson has drawn criticism from some conservatives for supporting fuel tax and vehicle registration fee hikes under a plan to improve Michigan’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

“Washington and Lansing are spending too much and taxing too much,” Allen said.

He said he also would emphasize national security, easing regulations on business and caring for military veterans.


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