At least that is the image being toted in ads from their campaign committees.
The committee for incumbent Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, took notice of the ad this week with its rebuttal called "Promotion," which features a sharecropper-dressed McDowell cutout with a pitchfork being quickly whisked to the Lansing capitol in a suit.
"Meet Gary McDowell, farmer, more like career politician," the narrator says. The ad finishes with a photo of Benishek, with a stethoscope adorning his neck.
The two spots highlight the efforts of both campaigns striving for the outsider role in a district where unemployment has been high for five years straight.
"As much as (McDowell would) like to forget his record, the families up here who are struggling through hard economic times can't, so why would he think they'd send him to Washington after what he's done here," said Mick Grunlund, Benishek's campaign manager.
McDowell was a state representative for Emmet, Mackinac, Chippewa and Cheboygan counties for three terms, until he hit the six-year state House term limit. Outside of office he helps operate a family hay farm with his brothers and retired from working as a UPS driver in 2003 after 30 years.
Although he spent 22 years as a Chippewa County commissioner before running for state office, McDowell says serving in a local office is "community service" and doesn't make someone a career politician.
"The only thing I can think he is referring to, is all my years of community service," McDowell says. "I have made career of that. I also served as a volunteer fire fighter and EMT. I was also on the local 9-1-1 board. I chaired that."
Republicans have gone after McDowell's voting record in Lansing, accusing him of raising taxes by $1.3 billion when he voted for the Michigan Business Tax and other votes under the Granholm administration.
However, McDowell counters that the MBT was a bi-partisan plan by Democrats and Republicans to replace the Single Business Tax in 2007, which was MBT's predecessor, and the efforts to bring up his record are deflections from Benishek's time in one of "the most dysfunctional" Congresses ever.
"I sure wouldn't want to be associated with (the current Congress) either," he said.
A nonpartisan Gallup poll in August put the public's approval rating for Congress at an all-time low -- 10 percent -- after it had already hung below 25 percent for more than a year. Partisan gridlock and the economy remain among attributed factors for the low marks.
Speaking by phone from Traverse City, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek had just finished addressing an "Introduction to Politics" class at Northwestern Michigan College.
"I was telling them about my 'Introduction to Politics,'" said Benishek, a first-term Republican Congressman who is locked in a close race for re-election.
Benishek leapt into the political fray in 2010, after he said he was fed up with the deficit spending in Washington and the national health care bill, known as Affordable Care Act to its supporters and Obamacare to its opponents.
It was the first political office for the 30-year surgeon, who spent the last 20 years working at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Clinic in Iron Mountain.
But, despite being in the final stretch of his two-year term, Benishek's campaign for re-election has consistently worked to remind people of his medical roots, not his Washington role in the U.S. House.
His website features the Congressman taking a patient's heartbeat and prominently states: "Stand with Dr. Dan." Even his most recent campaign swing through the district has been titled "House calls with Dr. Dan."
He says he's not sure when someone becomes a career politician, but he feels confident he doesn't qualify.
"I don't know where it is," Benishek said, when asked what year mark defines a career. "(McDowell) was a term-limited legislator. That's a career politician. He spent more than a decade in elected office. It's a long time. It's more than me. I haven't been here for 10 years with all the trouble."
Benishek has maintained he will only run for three terms -- finishing his time in Washington, D.C., at six years to avoid becoming a "career" politician.
"This is my first elected office. Twenty months isn't a career," he said.
Follow @BrandonHubbard on Twitter.