U.S. Reps. John Dingell and Lynn Rivers are racing toward the finish of their campaigns, trying to grab support of the last remaining undecided voters before the Aug. 6. 15th Congressional District Democratic primary.

Paul Wong
U.S. Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) shake hands after their only scheduled debate before the Aug. 6 primaries, hosted by the American Association of Retired Persons in Dearborn.
AP Photo

Dingell supporters have pointed out his 46 years of experience in Congress, as well as his place with many pieces of historical legislation, while Rivers touts her positions on issues, which she says are closer to the views of the district’s residents.

“I have not been alive for 46 years,” said Rivers, an eight-year lawmaker from Ann Arbor “I was not part of the (Civil Rights) landmark legislation in 1964 because in 1964 I was in second grade.”

Despite a tough race, the two candidates have similar views on many critical issues. Rivers and Dingell are both strongly in favor of public education, in keeping public college tuition affordable and thereby supporting programs such as Pell Grants. She said she relates to people who have trouble paying tuition, as she recalls her own experience of paying her way through school. She opposes private school vouchers, believing they are unconstitutional and drain money from the nation’s public schools.

“Vouchers keep on sucking the lifeblood out of schools.”

Dingell has also fought against school vouchers in the past, most recently in the passage of President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” last December, where he and other Democrats fought against conservatives who advocated cuts in public education funding.

“(Republicans) tried their best to load this education bill with extremist proposals, but their ideas were rejected,” Dingell said earlier this year. “Democrats held the line and our nation’s public schools and students are the winners.”

With corporate responsibility becoming such big issue this year following the exposure of dishonest practices in companies such as the Enron and WorldCom corporations. Rivers said she and other members of Congress must now support such issues as barring auditing firms from performing both audit and consulting work for the same companies, as well as pursing investigations of businessmen who have committed misdeeds.

If the Democrats retake control of the House this November, Dingell would again become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has conducted many of the investigations into the various business scandals. He served as its chairman until 1995, when the GOP took control of the chamber, but remains the top Democrat on the panel.

“I think that Congress is going to have to use the bully pulpit to keep the pressure on for prosecution of the people that were involved in all of these situations,” Rivers said.

Dingell has also called for more honest and stricter accounting practices for companies.

“If we don’t have honest accounting we can be in the same situation where the Japanese and some of the countries in the East and even in Europe are-where they don’t know what they have,” Dingell said.

In the wake of September 11, homeland security has become another important issue in Congress. Both Rivers and Dingell support several parts of President Bush’s plan to create a new department of homeland security, but at the same time are concerned about many provisions which could go into the bill, including violations of civil rights and the term “national security”.

“We shouldn’t just automatically rubber stamp or agree to things just because somebody said it’s national defense,” Rivers said.

The winner of the primary will likely face Dearborn Republican Martin Kaltenbach, who is running unopposed, in the Nov. 5 general election.

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