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Former Congressman Dan Benishek dies at 69

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Former Congressman Dan Benishek has died. He was 69.

The conservative Republican spent three terms in Congress representing northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula from 2011 to 2017.

“Today, Yoopers and Michiganders lost a fighter. Congressman Benishek represented the spirit of 'Sisu' during his time in office,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “As a physician and an elected official, Dan put people first.”

Benishek took an unlikely journey from Iron River to Washington.

His father died in a mining accident when he was five years old. Raised by his widowed mother, Benishek would eventually attend the University of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine, and he became a surgeon.

Benishek ran for Congress in 2010, as longtime Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak came under pressure for supporting the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. After Stupak decided not to seek re-election, Benishek won a close race for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District seat.

In Washington, Benishekworked to protect the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and improve the Veterans Administration.

After flirting with running for a fourth term, Benishek decided in 2015 to honor his pledge to only serve three terms.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.