U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) is one step closer to winning his 29th complete term in Congress, after handily defeating the first primary challenger he’s faced in a decade.

Dingell beat his primary challenger, Rackham student Daniel Marcin, by a 79-percent to 21-percent margin.

Dingell’s district was redrawn following the 2010 census, and he’s now running to represent the new 12th congressional district, which includes Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dearborn and other parts of southern Wayne County.

Dingell, 86, was first elected to the House in 1955 and is its longest-serving member. Democrats supporting Dingell and several other local candidates packed the Heidelberg restaurant on Main Street to celebrate and wait for election returns Tuesday night.

In November, Dingell will face either Karen Jacobsen or Cynthia Kallgren, who are both seeking the Republican nomination. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kallgren has a slim lead of 358 votes, according to unofficial results from the Michigan Secretary of State.

Speaking to the standing-room only crowd at the Heidelberg, Dingell praised Andy LeBarre, who won the Democratic primary for a seat on the Washtenaw County Commission but didn’t mention his own election.

When asked about his victory in an interview after his speech, Dingell said, “Well, it feels great.”

This was Dingell’s first primary challenge since he defeated four-term incumbent Lynn Rivers in a hard-fought primary in 2002, after redistricting force the two into the same district.

Moving into the general election, Dingell said his campaign would have a wide focus, as he spewed off a litany of issues important to Democrats — shoring up entitlement programs, improving infrastructure and enforcing the Affordable Care Act, among others.

“It’s always been my job to see to it that we run a clean, vigorous campaign in this district that helps all of our Democrats,” Dingell said. “We will be very busy getting ready to run that kind of campaign. We’re going to be talking about jobs, the economy, economic opportunity and building and rebuilding Michigan’s economic success.”

And while he lost in a landslide, Dingell’s challenger Marcin, who’s studying for his Ph.D. in economics at the University, could be pleased with the result. In an interview before the votes were counted, Marcin said he’d be happy if he garnered 15 to 20 percent of the vote.

Though he spent more than $12,000 of his own money on the losing effort, Marcin said he didn’t regret running.

“I put about one semester of University of Michigan tuition into this race,” he quipped.

Marcin said he made policy the focus of his campaign, and one of the issues he focused on was the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Dingell had previously opposed same-sex marriage, but in June he was a co-sponsor of a bill, the Respect of Marriage Act, which would repeal parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and recognize same-sex marriages.

Marcin claimed his pressure on Dingell contributed to him changing his mind, but Dingell said his views had undergone “evolution and change.”

“We simply came to the conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act was not working, it raised constitutional questions and was hurting a lot of people in ways that I found improper,” Dingell said.

Citing strong disagreements with Dingell over over economic and environmental policy, Marcin said he had no plans, as of now, to work on Dingell’s fall campaign. He added that he also wasn’t thinking about running for another office anytime soon.

“I’m going to write a dissertation now,” Marcin said

This story was updated at 9:05 a.m. with more accurate election results.

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