TAYLOR, Mich. — Members of the United Auto Workers cheered out in jubilation as results of the national election flashed across a screen, indicating a historic win for U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
At the event, 86-year-old Dingell claimed a victory over Republican candidate Cynthia Kallgren in the state’s newly drawn 12th district — which includes parts of Ann Arbor, Taylor and Dearborn — with a 75 percent lead with 79 percent of precincts reported as of 2:35 a.m. Wednesday.
In an address to the UAW workers, Dingell said the crowd reflected a diverse group of people that he hoped the election would allow himself and fellow Democrats to continue to fight for.
“(We’re here) because we believe in something that’s important,” Dingell said at the event. “We care about the future, and that’s what this election is about, about seeing through it that our kids get a decent education, that they get health care. About seeing through it that they can expect to live just a little better than their parents did.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Dingell said the Democrats ran a stronger campaign this year than during the midterm election in 2010, and their efforts show in the election results.
“Frankly, the Republicans outspent us (in 2010), quite frankly they out-lied us, and quite frankly they won at a time when things were bad.” Dingell said. “Folks didn’t realize that it was their handling of the economy and their governing of the country that made things such a mess, and we didn’t get out and reflect that thought to people. This time we did a better job of getting our story out and the people responded.”
Dingell said he will continue to pursue bipartisan policies in Congress, noting his former success among both parties on legislation regarding food safety, pharmaceutical protection, and oil and gas drilling regulation.
“If I can get the ideologues on that side to retreat just a little, we’re going to try to see to it that we do things that are necessary to implement the health care bill, to implement a lot of other legislation that is necessary,” Dingell said.
He said that while Obama’s groundbreaking status as the first African-American president is indicative of the vast advancements toward racial tolerance in the nation since he first took office in 1955, more must be done.
“The country has matured, we’re much wiser,” Dingell said. “That doesn’t tell me though, from some of the things that I’ve heard, that we have yet ridden all of the racial evils from this nation, but I do see that first of all the country is prepared to accept a minority president, and that’s good.”
He added that Obama is worthy of his re-election because of his achievements in helping save the auto industry, working to end the War in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden and passing health care reform.
“The harsh fact of the matter is that we’ve made huge progress. It is also a fact that the president has had a good program, a fine record of accomplishments,” Dingell said.
While Dingell visited Taylor, Kallgren met with supporters and awaited results at an Old Fire House owned by the Downriver and Detroit Business Association in Wyandotte, Mich.
Laughter filled the room as volunteers and campaign enthusiasts noshed on a dinner of pizza and lasagna while waiting to see if their efforts paid off.
Kallgren said that despite the outcome, she was proud of her campaign’s efforts.
“I think this is the calm after the storm,” Kallgren said. “Now I can go back to being a human being again for the moment and just enjoy the people who so lovingly gave their time and efforts knocking on doors and making phone calls.”
Kyle Kulik, a volunteer for the Kallgren campaign, said he originally joined the campaign after being asked by a friend to help, but was also drawn to the candidate because of her anti-abortion ideology.
“It was really a great experience because it helped me learn more about what was going on during this election,” Kulik said.
Kulik said he most enjoyed door-to-door canvassing because it made him feel closer to Kallgren and the community.
“I don’t know how many people actually meet and are able to talk with those who they might elect to office,” Kulik said. “That’s something very important, to have a relationship with that person.”
Kallgren said her campaign has been an uphill battle from the start, especially as a self-proclaimed housewife and regular citizen who decided to run for Congress against an entrenched incumbent.
“Before the primary, we couldn’t even find a paper that would announce that I was running,” Kallgren said.
She said she’s not sure if she will run again in the future, and is looking forward to seeing the final distribution of votes between the counties.
Kallgren acknowledged that Dingell is likely nearing retirement age, and is unsure about the fate of his seat in Congress.
“(It’s) pretty disturbing when you think we fought so hard to get away from a monarchy in England and how we have a seat where there’s an assumption that you can just pass that title down to a family member,” Kallgren said. “That’s just not the American way.”
Daily Staff Reporter Danielle Raykhinshteyn contributed reporting from Wyandotte, Mich.