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Wide open race for northern Michigan's U.S. Congress seat

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek surprised voters in northern Michigan last week when he announced he's retiring at the end of this term. That decision has also piqued interest among possible Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District.

"We don't know for sure who is definitely going to run just because the filing deadline is a while away and this news was unexpected," says Rick Pluta, the Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

But Pluta does have the names of some Republicans who are interested in making a run for U.S. Congress:

Benishek had said in March that he would run for a fourth termand had already dealt with criticism. Opponents attacked Benishek because he had made a pledge in favor of term limits in 2010.

His decision to drop out makes the 2016 race more enticing for candidates from both parties. It's a district that could be one of the most competitive in the nation in 2016.

"Right now people are starting to make phone calls talking to funders seeing if they can set up the framework of a campaign," Pluta says.

Former Michigan Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson has already announced his candidacy. So has Jerry Cannon, a former U.S. Army National Guard General and Kalkaska County Sheriff.