For the first time in 18 years, Lynn Rivers will not be serving Ann Arbor as an elected official as of Jan. 1.

Paul Wong
Departing U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) was named Congressional Legislator of the Year by the University chapters of Students for Choice and College Democrats.

Since losing the Aug. 6 Democratic primary in a reconfigured 15th Congressional District against fellow U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Rivers has remained mum on her plans as a former congresswoman, but last night said she will continue to fight for the causes she has championed in the House.

Receiving the Congressional Legislator of the Year award by the campus chapters of College Democrats and Students for Choice, Rivers said abortion rights supporters have a lot of work to do if they want women to continue to be able to have abortions. There are abortion rights-opposing majorities in both houses of Congress and in a majority of state legislatures, she said, as well as a president who opposes abortion, all of whom have chipped away at those rights.

“They (opponents of abortion rights) have been activists across their communities and got their candidates elected – and we have not kept up,” she said.

Rivers got her start in local politics in 1984 when she won a seat on the Ann Arbor Board of Education after being fed up with the condition of local public schools. She served on the board until 1992, finishing her stint as board president. She was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1992 and remained in the Legislature until 1994, when she was one of only a handful of Democrats to win new seats in the U.S. House, as Republicans took over the chamber for the first time in 40 years.

Last night, she said she would disclose her plans tomorrow.

As for her future, Rivers said, “I expect to roll up my sleeves and work to elect hard-working, pro-choice, progressive Democrats.”

She has been one of the House’s most liberal members, and the fact that she will not be returning has been cause for glee among state Republicans, who drew the 15th District into which the hometowns of both Dingell and Rivers were placed.

Rivers, who had a history of depression, said one of the most important things she did in Congress was discuss her own history of mental illness, causing “a lot of people to rethink the issue.”

But she said she sees no opportunities to seek elective office in the immediate future, though “politics is all about opportunities.”

“She’s not going to go away, and I think we can take comfort in that,” said state Sen.-elect Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), who won Rivers’ seat in the state House in 1994 upon Rivers’ election to Congress.

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