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March 14, 2013 - 11:41pm

Speculation begins on who will succeed retiring Senator Carl Levin


It's January 3, 1979, nine months before the events that inspired the movie “Argo.” The Bee Gees song "Too Much Heaven" is number one on the Billboard music chart, Jimmy Carter is president, Pope John Paul II is less than five months into his papacy and Carl Levin starts the first day of his long U.S. Senate career.

Last Thursday, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin — the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Michigan history and the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee and the — announced he won’t seek re-election in 2014.

The rare open seat has attracted the interest of the politically ambitious. There is already rampant speculation over who will run to replace him.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told The Detroit News that he expects President Barack Obama to visit Michigan to stump for the yet-undetermined Democratic candidate.

Two years before the vote there is already a long list of names that have been mentioned as possible contenders.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Peters is seriously considering running for the seat, and mentioned the possibility that Debbie Dingell, the wife of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), will run. Possible Republican contenders include U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.), U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, (R–Mich.), the former head of the Michigan Republican Party; and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The Detroit News reported that analysts think Democrats will have an advantage in the race, but that Republicans believe they also have a chance in a non-presidential election year.

Amash told the Detroit News that the Republican candidate should be a moderate.

“Frankly, we can't afford to nominate another unelectable establishment Republican,” Amash told The Detroit News. “History shows they don't appeal to moderate and independent voters.”

Whoever replaces Levin will have big shoes to fill.

In an e-mail interview, LSA senior Lauren Coffman, the spokeswoman for the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, wrote that she hopes the Senator's replacement will provide the same leadership that Levin did during his six terms.

“Senator Levin has served as a tireless advocate for the people of Michigan and has been a great friend to our University. His leadership of the Committee on Armed Forces has given our state a prominent voice in the senate.”

Law student Rebecca Targan and recent University alum Kaitlyn Charette, have interned for the senator over the years, along with many other University students.

Charette worked as an intern in Levin's Washington, D.C. office last summer. She said Levin loved to give his interns and staffers opportunities to learn, and that he promoted education in general.

“If there ever was a committee hearing or a conference, or just anything going on, he would say 'go to it,'” Charette said. “‘Go learn what you can, take some notes, come back and tell me what you learned...’ So that's what I think D.C. is going to miss about that man the most because he values education so much.”

Charette added that Levin was especially hard working.

Targan interned for Levin in the summer of 2010 and wrote in an e-mail that she was saddened to learn the Senate would be losing such a hard-working senator so committed to public education.

“Senator Levin spoke to the (University's Law School's) Frank Murphy Society both times we asked him to in the past two years and it was an honor to have him,” Targan wrote. “He's an advocate for not only this university, but public education in general.”

-Follow Steve Zoski on Twitter at @z0ski.