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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of August 4, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

After Tuesday's primaries, key general election match ups have taken shape with the Democrats seeking a nine seat gain to take control of the House and Republicans remaining confident they will keep control.  All State House incumbents won their primary elections.

Anti-politician sentiment carried the day in Michigan's lst Congressional District as retired Lt. General Jack Bergman came out of relative political obscurity to win a three Republican primary against two established political figures.  Bergman ended up winning 39 to 32 percent over Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba after finishing a strong second to Casperson in the Upper Peninsula and then dominating in the Lower Peninsula.  Former State Senator Jason Allen was third with 29 percent.  The race in the lst is ultimately to replace U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, who declined to run for re-election.

Bergman said that having an honest, straight-forward message resonated with voters in the lst District.  What he's heard from voters is they were looking for leadership capabilities in their elected officials and that is something he feels he has proven in his background.  Bergman served 40 years in the U. S. Marine Corps, at one time having overseen a $1 billion budget and 100,000 people.  In capturing the district, Bergman benefited from an "outsider" label and his history as a Marine, something he played up in TV ads that have been running since late June.  Bergman also ended up spending more than Casperson and Allen, digging into his own pocket for a $270,000 loan.  Overall, he reported spending $309,000, as of July 13 to Casperson's $270,000, Allen had spent $119,539.

Meanwhile, in the lst Congressional District Democratic primary, former, Democratic Party Chair, Lon Johnson defeated former Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon, 72 to 28 percent. Bergman's victory benefits Democrats in the sense that any Republican attack on Johnson being from outside the district rings hollow since Bergman has spent most of his adult life away from the Upper Peninsula.  Democrats were concerned about facing the more politically moderate Senator Casperson, who was expected to poll well in the UP.

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