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Michigan's 1st Congressional District elections, 2012

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Michigan's 1st Congressional District

General Election Date
November 6, 2012

Primary Date
August 7, 2012

November 6 Election Winner:
Dan Benishek Republican Party
Incumbent prior to election:
Dan Benishek Republican Party
Dan Benishek.JPG

Michigan U.S. House Elections
District 1District 2District 3District 4District 5District 6District 7District 8District 9District 10District 11District 12District 13District 14

2012 U.S. Senate Elections

Flag of Michigan.png
The 1st Congressional District of Michigan held an election for the U.S. House of Representatives on November 6, 2012.

Incumbent Dan Benishek won the election.[1]

The 1st District is located in the northern region of the lower penninsula and the entire upper penninsula of Michigan.

This is the 1st Congressional District prior to the 2010 redistricting.
Candidate Filing Deadline Primary Election General Election
May 15, 2012
August 7, 2012
November 6, 2012

Primary: Michigan has an open primary system, meaning any registered voter can vote in any party's primary.

Voter registration: Voters were required to register to vote in the primary by July 9. For the general election, the voter registration deadline was October 9.[2]

See also: Michigan elections, 2012

Incumbent: Heading into the election the incumbent was Dan Benishek (R), who was first elected in 2010.

This was the first election using new district maps based on 2010 Census data. Michigan's 1st Congressional District is located in the far northern portion of the state and includes Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon, Gogebie, Baraga, Iron, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Chippewa, Mackinac, Presque Isle, Cheboyan, Emmett, Charlevcix, Antrim, Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Mason, Kalkaska, Crawford, Oscoda, Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, and Otsego counties.[3]


General election candidates

Democratic Party Gary McDowell
Republican Party Dan BenishekGreen check mark transparent.png
Libertarian Party Emily Salvette
Green Party Ellis Boal

August 7, 2012, primary results

Democratic Party Democratic Primary

Note: Derek Bailey withdrew from the primary on April 23, 2012[5]

Republican Party Republican Primary

Election results

U.S. House, Michigan District 1 General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Gary McDowell 47.6% 165,179
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDan Benishek Incumbent 48.1% 167,060
     Libertarian Emily Salvette 3.1% 10,630
     Green Ellis Boal 1.2% 4,168
Total Votes 347,037
Source: Michigan Secretary of State "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"

Race background


Using the Federal Election Commission's October Quarterly campaign finance filings, the Brennan Center for Justice at The New York University School of Law published a report on October 22nd focusing on the 25 House races rated most competitive by The Cook Political Report, including the race for Michigan's 1st. The report examined the relative spending presence of non-candidate groups, candidates, and small donors in these races - "which will likely determine which party will control the House." [6]

Michigan's 1st was considered to be a Tossup according to the New York Times race ratings. Republican incumbent Dan Benishek was challenged by Gary McDowell (D) for a rematch of their 2010 bout. The district had a large number of senior citizens, which could have hurt Benishek who voted for the Ryan budget, which was framed as voting to end traditional medicare. The district became slightly more Republican following redistricting.[8]

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) targeted the 1st District for additional resources from the committee. The district is 1 of 36 nominated to receive additional resources through the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program. The 1st District was the only one in Michigan that was targeted. [9]

Incumbent Dan Benishek was a part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Patriot Program, a program to help House Republicans stay on offense and increase their majority in 2012.[10]

McDowell explained the strategy to the Daily Press, "What they do is look across the country and they look at the most competitive races," he explained. "This one here is very competitive for a number of reasons. It's a swing district; it can go either way."


Dan Benishek vs. Gary McDowell

Dan Benishek vs. Gary McDowell
Poll Dan Benishek Gary McDowellUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
(June 25, 2012)
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to


Benishek was targeted for defeat in the 2012 elections by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.[11]


The two campaign ads below were released by Republican incumbent Dan Benishek and Democratic challenger Gary McDowell.

Dan Benishek

Dan Benishek, "Ad: Promotion"[12]

Gary McDowell

Gary McDowell, "Send a Message"[13]

Impact of Redistricting

See also Redistricting in Michigan

District partisanship

FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012 study

See also: FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012

In 2012, FairVote did a study on partisanship in the congressional districts, giving each a percentage ranking (D/R) based on the new 2012 maps and comparing that to the old 2010 maps. Michigan's 1st District partisan breakdown did not change because of redistricting.[14]

  • 2012: 47D / 53R
  • 2010: 47D / 53R

Cook Political Report's PVI

See also: Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index

In 2012, Cook Political Report released its updated figures on the Partisan Voter Index, which measures each congressional district's partisanship relative to the rest of the country. Michigan's 1st Congressional District has a PVI of R+4, which is the 201st most Republican district in the country. In 2008, this district was won by Barack Obama (D), 51-49 percent over John McCain (R). In 2004, George W. Bush (R) won the district 55-45 percent over John Kerry (D).[15]

Campaign donors

Candidates for Congress were required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2012 elections season. Below are Benishek and McDowell's reports.

Dan Benishek

Dan Benishek (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[16]March 31, 2012$277,055.84$336,236.67$(100,995.4)$512,297.11
July Quarterly[17]June 30, 2012$512,297.11$305,245.35$(203,306.98)$614,235.48
Pre-Primary[18]July 26, 2012$614,235.48$36,273.6$(152,229.94)$498,729.14
October Quarterly[19]October 28, 2012$498,314.14$487,308.29$(411,287.53)$574,334.9
Pre-General[20]October 25, 2012$574,334.9$128,790.84$(412,751.98)$290,373.56
Running totals

Gary McDowell

Gary McDowell (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[21]March 31, 2012$303,077.60$273,981.60$(74,385.12)$502,674.08
July Quarterly[22]June 30, 2012$502,674.08$291,062.38$(107,074.92)$686,661.54
Pre-General[23]October 15, 2012$686,661.54$15,238.40$(81,542.06)$620,357.88
October Quarterly[24]October 15, 2012$620,357.88$385,760.60$(402,305.70)$603,812.78
Pre-General[25]October 25, 2012$603,812.78$77,966.34$(299,508.03)$382,271.09
Running totals

McDowell reported raising $400,000 in the third quarter, leaving his campaign with $600,000 cash on hand.[26]

District History


On November 2, 2010, Benishek won election to the United States House of Representatives. He defeated Gary McDowell (D), Keith Shelton (L), Patrick Lambert (U.S. Taxpayers'), Ellis Boal (G), and Glenn A. Wilson (I) in the general election.[27]

U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan's 1st Congressional District, General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDan Benishek 51.9% 120,523
     Democratic Gary McDowell 40.9% 94,824
     Libertarian Keith Shelton 1.1% 2,571
     U.S. Taxpayers' Patrick Lambert 1.8% 4,200
     Green Ellis Boal 0.9% 2,072
     Independent Glenn A. Wilson 3.4% 7,847
Total Votes 232,037

See also

External links


  1. Politico "2012 Election Map, Michigan"
  2. Michigan Secretary of State "2012 Registration Deadlines and Election Dates," Accessed June 29, 2012
  3. Michigan Redistricting Map "Map" Accessed August 31, 2012
  4. "UP's Benishek welcomes McDowell to Congressional race" September 14, 2011
  5. Elect Derek Bailey "Author Archives" May 15, 2012
  6. Brennan Center for Justice, "Election Spending 2012: 25 Toss-Up House Races," October 22, 2012
  7. The Cook Political Report, "House: Race Ratings", updated October 18, 2012
  8. New York Times "House Race Ratings," Accessed August 10, 2012
  9. "Red to blue? Democrats target one Michigan soon-to-be district" January 18 2012]
  10. NRCC "Patriot Program 2012"
  11. "Red to blue? Democrats target one Michigan soon-to-be district" January 18 2012]
  12. YouTube channel
  13. YouTube channel
  14. "2011 Redistricting and 2012 Elections in Michigan," September 2012
  15. Cook Political Report "Partisan Voting Index Districts of the 113th Congress: 2004 & 2008" Accessed October 2012
  16. Federal Election Commission "April Quarterly," Accessed August 1, 2012
  17. Federal Election Commission "July Quarterly," Accessed August 1, 2012
  18. Federal Election Commission "Pre-Primary," Accessed November 6, 2012
  19. Federal Election Commission "October Quarterly," Accessed November 6, 2012
  20. Federal Election Commission "Pre-General," Accessed November 6, 2012
  21. Federal Election Commission "April Quarterly," Accessed August 1, 2012
  22. Federal Election Commission "July Quarterly," Accessed August 1, 2012
  23. Federal Election Commission "Pre-Primary," Accessed November 6, 2012
  24. Federal Election Commission "October Quarterly," Accessed November 6, 2012
  25. Federal Election Commission "Pre-General," Accessed November 6, 2012
  26. Gary McDowell's campaign website
  27. U.S. Congress House Clerk "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 2010" Accessed December 1, 2011