In an effort to help get the ball rolling for U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers” 2002 re-election campaign, the Washington-based fundraising group EMILY”s List announced this week it will begin to collect funds on her behalf.

Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) will most likely face Dearborn Rep. John Dingell in the Democratic primary, after the Republican-controlled state Legislature approved a redistricting plan placing both incumbents in the same congressional district.

“Though some in Washington think the powerful former chairman must be a shoo-in,” said Ellen Malcolm, the president of EMILY”s List, which only collects monies for Democratic and pro-choice women congressional candidates. “EMILY”s List is confident that Congresswoman Rivers will win primary voters with her staunch support of choice, gun safety, and the environment.”

Dingell, 75, is the longest-serving member of the House and chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee until Republicans gained a majority in the 1994 elections. Dingell is now the ranking Democrat on the committee.

EMILY”s List is the largest fundraising group for congressional candidates. In the 2000 Michigan Senate race, the group collected over $1 million for Rep. Debbie Stabenow for her successful challenge to incumbent Republican Spencer Abraham.

The group collects funds by sending out newsletters to its members and informing them of the candidates it endorses. It collects donations for the candidates, which it then “bundles” and forwards to the candidates.

Rivers noted that she has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record. According to Planned Parenthood, Dingell has a rating of 73 percent.

“He”s voted repeatedly against reproductive rights for women,” she said.

Dingell”s campaign manager, Lon Johnson, stressed Dingell”s experience, having served in Congress since 1955.

“The voters in this new district are going to look at education, health care, the environment, and who has a longer record of fighting for those causes and who will be better positioned to fight those causes,” he said.

Both campaigns, however, are involved in challenges against the redistricting plan. Oral arguments are being heard next week in the Michigan Supreme Court.

State law requires that legislative districts break the minimal number of county and municipal boundaries. Democrats argue that their redistricting plan is a better plan because it breaks fewer county and municipal lines.

While the Republican plan puts three pairs of Democratic incumbents in the same district, including Rivers and Dingell, the Democratic plan does not.

State Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said if his party does not prevail in the Supreme Court, where Republican-nominated justices hold a 5-2 majority, the party will continue its case in U.S. District Court, alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act.

“I hope we will be able to remain friends and not run against each other,” Rivers said.

The winner of the Aug. 6 primary is expected to prevail in the Nov. 5 general election.

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