AP source: Debbie Dingell to seek MI House seat

Debbie and John Dingell. (Photo courtesy: John Dingell Facebook page)
Debbie and John Dingell. (Photo courtesy: John Dingell Facebook page)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Debbie Dingell will run for the House seat currently held by her husband, John, who announced this week that he will retire after the longest congressional career in history, a Democratic official said Tuesday.

Debbie Dingell, 60, is chairwoman of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, a former executive with General Motors and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She had been widely expected to seek the southeast Michigan seat in a district that President Barack Obama won comfortably in 2012 and 2008.

Democrats are expected to easily hold the seat.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the plans by name ahead of a formal announcement.

John Dingell, 87, who was elected to his late father’s seat in 1955 and has held it ever since, announced on Monday that he would retire at the end of his term. The once powerful committee chairman played a key role in some of the biggest liberal legislative victories of the past 60 years, including the creation of the Medicare program in 1965, the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act and the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

He played a major role in passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Months later, however, Democrats lost the majority in the House and control of the agenda. Partisan divisions have been more pronounced in Congress, limiting bipartisan efforts to pass legislation.

“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” the congressman said in an interview with the Detroit News. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

In June, Dingell broke the record for the longest-serving member of Congress held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, but his congressional experience goes back even further than his 1955 electoral win. As a congressional page in 1941, he watched firsthand as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Congress to declare war on Japan in his “Day of Infamy” address.

Debbie Dingell spent 30 years with General Motors, heading its foundation and public affairs. Her husband gave her a strong endorsement on Monday.

“If she ever runs, she’s going to be one hell of a congressman — and she won’t need any advice from me,” John Dingell said.

Former congressman Martin Frost said Debbie Dingell was well known to members of the House who served with her husband and to others around Washington.

“I don’t know who else may enter the race, but she’s very knowledgeable, a hard charger,” Frost said. “Certainly she would start with a head start.

“A lot of people here in Washington know Debbie and will want to help her,” he said.

The seat is seen as Debbie Dingell’s to lose. While the district includes liberal Ann Arbor, it includes a large swath of “Downriver” working-class Detroit suburbs where the Dingell name is entrenched.

Debbie and John Dingell married in 1981. She has long served as political adviser to him and other Michigan Democrats, leading campaign efforts in the state for presidential candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Both Democrats won the state.

Another potential candidate is state Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor. The 42-year-old Democrat ran an abortion-rights organization before becoming a lawmaker.

Close to 40 House members, Republicans and Democrats, have announced plans to retire at the end of their term, with at least half seeking Senate seats, governorships or other offices.

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Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson in Washington and David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.

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