U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin spent time on this side of Lake Michigan on Monday morning, campaigning for Republican congressional candidate Jack Bergman.
Ryan spoke briefly at the headquarters of the Grand Traverse County Republican Party in Traverse City. He endorsed Bergman in the 1st District race and touted the Republican agenda in the U.S. House before a crowd of party members and elected officials, including state Rep. Larry Inman and state Sen. Wayne Schmidt.
During his remarks, Ryan lambasted President Obama’s foreign policy and said the president was “basically phoning it in.”
“We need experts. We need expertise. We need men and women who are dedicated to securing our homeland and to keeping us safe by going on offense,” Ryan said. “I can’t think of a better person than Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman to help us do this.”
Bergman is a retired Marine Corps general running in a hotly contested district that spans the northern third of the Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula. His Democratic opponent, Lon Johnson, is the former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Citing the northern Michigan cherry industry, Ryan also spoke about his plans to reduce federal regulations. He said cherry growers in both Michigan and Wisconsin face a stifling regulatory climate.
When asked about the issue, Ryan pointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water policies.
“Regulators are putting our own farmers out of business,” Ryan said, “and we’ve got to tame the regulations.”
Democrat Lon Johnson criticized the speaker’s position.
“I believe that we need to put protections in to protect our fresh water,” Johnson told IPR News Radio in a phone interview. “We can start by shutting down Line 5. Jack Bergman says that’s a business decision.”
“The Flint [water] crisis was caused by that same line of thinking,” Johnson said.
Johnson has made shutting down the oil pipeline Line 5 across the Straits of Mackinac a key issue in his campaign. He has also attacked Jack Bergman for statements he made at a forum in support of privatizing social security in the future.
“Speaker Ryan is here in the 1st District today because he sees in Jack Bergman an ally in his scheme to privatize social security and send it to Wall Street,” said Johnson.
At the Monday event, Bergman pledged he would protect social security.