Updated 10:10 a.m. | Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., will not seek a fourth term in the House, he announced Tuesday, choosing to stick to a three-term limit he set for himself when he first ran in 2010.
"Today I’m announcing that I won’t seek re-election next year, which will allow me to focus my time and attention on helping our veterans and working to make things better for the families and workers throughout Northern Michigan, and devote more time to my family," Benishek said in a statement.
Benishek's decision to retire instead of run for re-election is a change of course for the three-term Republican. In March, he said he would run for a fourth term , despite his earlier pledge. His decision to retire leaves vacant his 1st District seat, which GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried by an 8-point margin in 2012.
The seat was held by former Rep. Bart Stupak, a Blue Dog Democrat, for nearly two decades before he retired in 2010 in the middle of the Republican wave that year and after he cast one of the deciding votes in the House for the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats were already targeting the seat for a pickup this cycle even before Benishek's retirement. They think the race will be more competitive for an open seat.
Democrats recruited Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson to run. Party operatives tout Johnson as a strong recruit in this northern Michigan district that includes the state's Upper Peninsula. Johnson is married to Juliana Smoot, President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012, giving him a national fundraising base.
Ret. Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon, the Democrat who lost to Benishek by a 7-point margin in 2014, announced in September he is also running again .
On the Republican side, GOP operatives mention a handful of potential challengers to run in Benishek's absence. They include:
- State Sen. Tom Casperson, who ran for the seat in 2008 and lost to Stupak.
- State Rep. Peter Pettalia, who had already been mulling a primary challenge to Benishek in 2016.
- Former state Sen. Jason Allen, who lost to Benishek in a GOP primary in 2010 by 15 votes, and who was also weighing a primary against Benishek if he ran.
- State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, who is from Traverse City.
Benishek is the seventh House member to retire this cycle. For a full list, check out Roll Call's casualty list .
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