Rep. Dingell clinches 29th term in nail biter

BY MIKE MERAR
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 2, 2010

Correction appended: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Dingell will serve his 28th term in Congress.

TAYLOR, Mich. — United States Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) will enter his 56th year in Congress after successfully holding onto his seat in Michigan's 15th district and staving off a significant upset challenge from Republican Rob Steele.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Dingell, the longest-serving U.S. congressman ever at age 84, has 56 percent of the vote, while Steele sits at 40 percent, The Associated Press reported as of 4 a.m.

Last night, hundreds of Dingell supporters gathered in the local UAW hall in Taylor, Mich. to hear the election results. Dingell arrived late in the night to loud cheers of support from the crowd.

After thanking his family and important staff members, Dingell spoke of the campaign and the hard-fought race.

“We have worked hard in this campaign,” he said. “It has been a good one, it has been clean, it has been hard, it has been a good presentation of the issues to the people we serve.”

In his address to supporters, Dingell spoke of returning to Congress and fighting for the constituents of the 15th district.

“We're going to go back to Washington and work our hearts out for you again,” he said. “There is a lot to be done — jobs and the economy. That is the point that we made during our campaign. We're going to work hard on that.”

Recent polls suggested the race would be a blowout with Dingell predicted to win by double digits. However, one poll conducted by The Rossman Group and Team TelCom — two firms Dingell’s campaign said has GOP ties — showed Steele leading in the race.

After seeing the results of the race and making a speech at his watch party held at Malarkey's Pub in Southgate, Mich. last night, Steele, a cardiologist, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that despite his loss, he felt his campaign staff did a good job promoting his name in a district typically dominated by Democrats.

“I think you’ve seen a whole bunch of new people like myself enter the arena," Steele said. "None of us had ever been involved in a political campaign before, and here we went from zero to what we did, which was fantastic."

Steele said he thought those that voted for him chose to do so because of his appeal as someone new to the political scene, in addition to his stance on reducing spending, which he said was his motivation for running for a spot in Congress.

“I look at young people as having no chance in the future the way spending is going," Steele said. "You’ll spend your whole life working to pay government debt instead of creating your own life and your own community and that sort of thing."

In the last few weeks leading up to Election Day, Dingell stepped up his campaign efforts to help ensure a successful election night.

Dingell recently announced federal grants to help build a new transit center in Ann Arbor as well as funds to improve an AMTRAK line that travels between Dearborn and Detroit. However, Dingell's Press Secretary Adam Benson wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily last week that the funds have "no relation" to Dingell's campaign, even though the announcements came close to the election.

Last month, Dingell hosted a rally with former President Bill Clinton to encourage students and community members to vote for the Democratic ticket.

Betsy Barrett, communications director for Dingell's campaign, said Dingell had a successful campaign and compared his organization to that of President Barack Obama's in 2008.

At Dingell’s election watch party in Taylor, Jeff Squillets, a Westland, Mich. resident, said he was proud to support Dingell over Steele.

“(Dingell’s) for the working man,” Squillets said. “I don’t like the idea of a right-to-work state.”

Squillets said he volunteered throughout the day, going door to door encouraging people to get out and vote.

Jeff Donofrio, chair of the 15th Congressional District Democratic Organization, said even though it was a rough election for Democrats, Dingell came through strong.

“People in the 15th know he delivers for them,” he said. “It was a tough night for Democrats, but we knew it was going to be.”

David Harrison, who used to work for Dingell, said he continues to support the legendary congressman.

“He’s always been good to our family,” Harrison said. “I always support John Dingell, and I always will. He’s a good man.”

Dingell ended his speech tonight by emphasizing that his 55 years in Congress has allowed him to become close to his constituents and has enabled him to recognize their needs.

“I want to say that I know who I work for. And I know who I fight for. And we're going to look to you and the people of the 15th district to try and serve you the way you want with vigor and energy and enthusiasm and hard work,” Dingell said.

— Daily Staff Reporter Caitlin Huston contributed reporting from Southgate, Mich.