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Outsider Triumphs in Michigan Primary

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Wednesday, 03 Aug 2016 08:14 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In an outcome that few saw coming, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman won the Republican nomination for Congress in Michigan’s open 1st District.

Bergman, a newcomer, took the nomination over two seasoned politicians.

With near-final returns in, Bergman had nearly 39 percent of the vote, followed by State Sen. Tom Casperson (32 percent) and former State Sen. Jason Allen (29 percent). In 2010, Allen lost the primary by a microscopic 15 votes to physician and present Rep. Dan Benishek (who is stepping down this year).

“The primary to replace Benishek is puzzling and will be very interesting,” Bill Ballenger of TheBallengerReport.com, a must-read on-line publication on Michigan politics, told me before the primary. “And at this point, I can’t say what the outcome will be. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bergman wins.”

What made the former aviator’s victory especially interesting is how removed he was from politics. Only four months ago, he became the last Republican to declare for Benishek’s seat.

In fact, Bergman moved to his home in the Western Upper Peninsula part of the district in December of 2009, after four decades in the U.S. Marine Corps. He had previously served as commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North.

In his contest with Casperson and Allen, Bergman offered little in terms of contrast on issues. Dubbing himself “100 percent conservative,” he said that his agenda included “protect life,” “preserve the Constitution,” “cut the deficit,” and defeat “radical Islam.”

But what most distinguished Bergman from his opponents was his reputation as an outsider and non-politician who said “President Obama has failed us and so has the Republican Congress.”

“Congress is full of career politicians and what have they done for us?” Bergman declared in TV spots, with patriotic music in the background, “Jobs are leaving America, we’re on the brink of financial ruin, and terrorists have infiltrated our country.”

He admonished voters that you can vote for career politicians “and get more of the same, or vote for me, a straight-talking Marine Corps general. I’ll get the job done.”

Bergman, who put in $270,000 of his own money, also raised enough to match his two major opponents almost dollar-for-dollar.

In what is widely considered a marginal district, he now faces a strong fall contest from former Democratic State Chairman Lon Johnson, whose wife works in the Obama White House. If Bergman wins, he will be the highest-ranked former military officer to serve in the House since fellow Marine Brig. Gen. James Devereaux, Republican U.S. representative from Maryland (and World War II prisoner of war) from 1950-58.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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In an outcome that few saw coming, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman won the Republican nomination for Congress in Michigan’s open 1st District.
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Wednesday, 03 Aug 2016 08:14 AM
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