Former US congressman Benishek passes away
CRYSTAL FALLS — Former U.S. congressman Dan Benishek passed away Friday night. He was 69 years old.
The Republican from Crystal Falls served Michigan’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms from 2011 to 2017.
He served on the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Veterans Affairs committees.
“We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of a loyal friend, a loving husband, a dedicated grandfather, and a tireless advocate for Northern Michigan,” the Benishek family said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
“As a doctor and surgeon, Dan saved countless lives in our community. His work in Congress made a difference for veterans across the country and protected Michigan’s natural wonders for years to come.”
Benishek’s successor in the House, U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, issued the following statement on social media Saturday:
“Cindy (Bergman) and I are deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Congressman “Dr. Dan” Benishek. Dr. Dan was passionate in his love for the Upper Peninsula, a respected physician, and served Michigan with sincerity and honor. While there will be much more to say about his life and legacy in the days ahead — Judy (Benishek), the Benishek family, and all of Team Benishek will be in our prayers during this time of grief.”
Condolences poured in from friends, colleagues and supporters across the state.
“Dan was a man who cared about his community, state and country,” wrote U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, on Twitter. “He was a cheerful advocate who fought with a passion for common sense U.P. values. I am proud to call him a friend and he will be deeply missed.”
State Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, remembered Benishek as a man who always remembered his U.P. roots, and one of the “most popular Republicans in America.”
“The Upper Peninsula, Northern Michigan, State and Nation lost a legend (Friday night),” LaFave said. “Dr. Dan Benishek was called to public service when his Congressman broke his pro-life pledge and was the deciding vote to pass a healthcare law that he knew would hurt his patients. So he ran for Congress. The 20-year incumbent announced he wouldn’t seek re-election shortly after.
“Dr. Dan won the crowded Republican Primary on election night by one vote. A later recount increased his margin to 15 votes. He went on to defeat the well-funded DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) candidate and earned his seat in Congress.
“Serving six years in House Republican Minority, Dr. Dan fought every day for veterans, patients, and residents. His district, being the largest geographical Congressional District east of the Mississippi, had a Congressman who never forgot that one vote that got him elected. He traversed every little town and village via car every minute he wasn’t voting on the House Floor. Dr. Dan always seemed more comfortable in his surgical scrubs or Yooper camp clothes. While he put on that suit jacket and Congressional pin, he never forgot he was a Yooper. Always a kind smile, firm handshake, look you in the eyes kind of man. His word was his bond. He retired from Congress to spend time with his loved ones back home in Iron River. His wrestling the 1st Congressional District away from the Democrats is all but permanent. This Nation will remember warmly a man once called ‘the most popular Republican in America.’ Your service has concluded, sir. Enjoy your eternal reward with Our Father and Son in Heaven.”
Democratic colleagues also issued statements on the passing of Benishek.
“Very sad to hear Dr. Dan Benishek has passed,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a Facebook post. “My heart goes out to his wife, Judy, and his entire family.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the following statement:
“Today, Yoopers and Michiganders lost a fighter. Congressman Benishek represented the spirit of ‘Sisu’ during his time in office. In Congress, he championed our men and women in uniform, advocated fiercely for veterans, and worked to protect Sleeping Bear Dunes. As a physician and an elected official, Dan put people first. My thoughts are with his wife, children, and grandchildren.”
According to the governor’s office, U.S. and Michigan flags will be lowered in Benishek’s honor once funeral arrangements are announced.
Benishek, who was born in Iron River, is survived by his wife, Judy, five children and five grandchildren.