BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY —
Gary McDowell has tried to take advantage of something he lacked in his previous contest with Dan Benishek for the 1st Congressional District seat: his opponent's voting record.
The two Yoopers will square off in a rematch of the 2010 election that Benishek easily won with heavy Tea Party support. Polls indicate the race is a toss up, despite the addition of the Republican-leaning Grand Traverse area to the 1st District.
Outside groups have poured more than $6 million worth of political ads into the district.
McDowell said his polls show him with a slim lead headed into election day and "the momentum is going our way.
"Congressman Benishek is an incumbent and he has a record," McDowell said. "When he went to Washington he promised to protect Medicare and Social Security, but instead he voted to end Medicare and wants to privatize Social Security."
Benishek's campaign declined an interview request because, a Benishek spokesman said, the Record-Eagle editorial board endorsed McDowell.
Benishek said in prepared statements that America needs pro-growth solutions that empower small businesses, provide a flatter, fairer tax code, and remove "job-killing regulations."
Benishek favors a balanced budget amendment and said he believes the federal debt is the primary factor slowing economic recovery. He proposes to save Medicare by providing those under the age of 55 vouchers to buy their own federally approved health insurance when they reach Medicare age.
McDowell said studies have shown Benishek's plan would cost seniors thousands of dollars in increased premiums.
Benishek countered McDowell's Medicare claims by alleging McDowell's support of the Affordable Care Act will cut $716 billion from Medicare.
The cuts he alleged are caps on reimbursements to hospitals over the next 10 years, something Benishek voted to support last spring as part of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's federal budget plan.
Benishek favors repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but McDowell said repeal goes too far.
"I'm really concerned about the mandates and the cost to small business," McDowell said. "So if it's not working we need to change and fix it."
McDowell also opposes turning part of Social Security into private investment accounts.
"Right now, Social Security is solvent for 30 years," he said. "I would not turn it over to the same people on Wall Street who because of their greed and speculation drove this country to the brink of economic collapse."
McDowell proposes a balanced approach to addressing the federal deficit. He would not support tax increases on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, and said there are 143 federal agencies with overlapping responsibilities that could be cut.
McDowell called the Budget Control Act of 2011 that will result in an estimated $600 billion of automatic budget cuts and tax increases at the start of 2013, a "huge mistake" that could cast the country back into recession.
"If you have to cut your budget, you look at what's critical and what's not necessary," McDowell said. "In your own family budget, you wouldn't cut your food budget so you can still go to the movies."
Ellis Boal, a Green Party candidate from Charlevoix who also seeks the 1st District post, criticizes both candidates' records.
"Benishek believes global warming is baloney and just a scheme," Boal said. "McDowell is a nice guy and I know he believes what he's telling me, even if I don't."