Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Democratic Candidate Says Gitmo Experience Is Not a Liability (Video)

Cannon is running in a competitive House district in Michigan. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The candidate: Ret. Army Major General Jerry Cannon, a Democrat.
The member: Rep. Dan Benishek, a two-term Republican.
The district: In 2012, Benishek defeated Democratic challenger Gary McDowell by less than 2,000 votes in this Upper Peninsula district. Mitt Romney carried the district with 54 points.
The candidate’s team: Travis Lowe and Clare Gannon of Three Point Media (media), Al Quinlan and Andrew Baumann of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (polling), Terry Walsh at The Strategy Group (mail).

Ret. Army Major General Jerry Cannon — a House Democratic recruit in Michigan —  cautioned against painting his service at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as unpatriotic, stressing it’s not correct to generalize all the military activity that took place there.

“Some people might try to make it controversial, but listen, I was a soldier. I served with some great young Americans,” he said about the controversial detention center during an Oct. 8 interview with CQ Roll Call. “I’ve done that gladly. I’ve done that proudly. I would do it again.”

Democrats see Cannon, 65, as a strong recruit to run in the competitive 1st District, which includes the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan. In 2010 and 2012, Republican Rep. Dan Benishek narrowly defeated Democrat Gary McDowell, a former state representative — but Cannon said his status as an outsider makes him a stronger challenger in this district.

McDowell “had a voting record that people could attack and he could also be characterized as a career politician,” Cannon said. “They can’t do that with me.”

Cannon’s career has been spent largely in the military, having served in Vietnam as well as a stint at Guantánamo Bay about a decade ago. He’s also a former sheriff.

The campaign committee of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently doled out $2,000 to 10 Democratic challengers running in 2014 — including Cannon.

The race is rated a Tossup/Tilt Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

This video interview series questions the scores of congressional hopefuls who visit the CQ Roll Call offices each cycle. Responses and questions have been edited and condensed. Have a question for a candidate? Follow us at @RollCallPols to learn about upcoming interviews.
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