Dingell — Debbie Dingell — Won’t Run

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell (D)

Debbie Dingell, in a posting on her Facebook page over the weekend, said she will not seek retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) open seat next year. She had been actively testing the waters for such a race ever since Levin made known his 2014 political intentions. Dingell is the wife of venerable Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) who, first elected in a 1955 special election, is the dean of the House of Representatives.

In an email Mr. Dingell sent to supporters relaying his wife’s statement, Debbie Dingell said in part, ” … when Carl Levin announced he would not seek reelection, those plans (working for Sen. Levin’s re-election and other Democrats’ such as her husband) changed. Close friends, complete strangers, political allies and business colleagues encouraged me to take a long, hard look at running for the Senate myself — and that’s what I have done.”

She then goes onto say, ” … but I think it is critical that Democrats unite behind one candidate for what will be a difficult and expensive race, and it’s one of the reasons I have concluded that now is not the time for me to run for the United States Senate. We have good candidates like Gary Peters already running, and a primary would be divisive at a time that cries out for unity. As someone who has spent much of my career working to bring people together, it just didn’t feel right to take this step now. There may be a time when elective office is the right choice for me, but this was not it.”

The Analysis

Her course of action tells us at least two things. First, her pullback decision suggests there could have been some behind the scenes lobbying coming from the Levin Brothers — Sen. Carl and Rep. Sander (D-MI-9) — thus fulfilling their part of a speculated political deal they may have made with Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) two years ago. Second, the move also clearly tells us that Peters is going to run for the Senate.

Just after the Michigan redistricting map was enacted, when representatives Peters and Sander Levin were paired in a newly configured district, there was rampant speculation that the Levin brothers and Peters entered into an arrangement. In return for Peters not running against Sander Levin in an intra-party primary for new House District 9, the siblings would in return support him in a later Senate race when Carl Levin retired. Peters ultimately decided to seek re-election in the African-American majority 14th District against then-Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13). Running in the 14th certainly appeared to be a tougher road for Peters than challenging Levin in more familiar political territory, thus the speculation suggesting the existence of such a deal among the three men carried credibility.

To date, despite what Ms. Dingell said in her message, Peters has not officially announced for the Senate. Prior to Levin making his retirement decision public, it was assumed that the Detroit congressman would run against Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Though people immediately assumed he would switch to the Senate race, Peters has yet to confirm that this is his plan. Ms. Dingell’s action and statement, however, makes it appear beyond any doubt that Peters will run for the Senate.


Sans Ms. Dingell in the race, Rep. Peters should draw a clear shot for the Democratic nomination. Should Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI-8) decide to run on the Republican side, the statewide contest will become one of the more interesting and hard-fought races in the country. Rogers is still said to be “seriously considering” running for the Senate, according to sources personally close to the congressman. A Peters Senatorial candidacy will also change the Democratic gubernatorial picture and probably leaves Gov. Snyder with a weaker opponent.

Expect Peters to announce for the Senate in the very near future, particularly since Ms. Dingell just made clear that he has been recruiting the Democratic support needed to make the race. Political observers in Michigan and nationwide will now turn their full attention toward Peters and Rogers.

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