Advance Notice: Briefs

Former U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek dies at age 69

By: - October 16, 2021 8:35 pm

Former U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek | Twitter

Former U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) has died at age 69. Benishek represented the 1st Congressional District spanning the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Michigan from 2011 until he retired in 2017.

He was a surgeon who had five children with his wife, Judy. They had five grandchildren.

“We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of a loyal friend, a loving husband, a dedicated grandfather, and a tireless advocate for Northern Michigan,” his family said in a statement. “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. He will always be remembered by his family and friends as a strong leader, a caring healer, and an unwavering patriot.”

A former staffer said he died of a heart attack.

Benishek was elected during the tea party wave in 2010. He succeeded former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), who did not run again.

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) now represents the 1st District and said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing” of his predecessor.

“Dr. Dan was passionate in his love for the Upper Peninsula, a respected physician, and served Michigan with sincerity and honor,” Bergman said in a statement on Facebook. “While there will be much more to say about his life and legacy in the days ahead – Judy, the Benishek family, and all of Team Benishek will be in our prayers during this time of grief.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted Benishek’s work on veterans’ issues and called him a “fighter.”

“Today, Yoopers and Michiganders lost a fighter. Congressman Benishek represented the spirit of ‘Sisu’ during his time in office,” she said. “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.”

On Thursday, former longtime U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Flint) died at age 92.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.