Dynasty: We Could See 'A Full Century of Dingellmania In The House'

February 26, 2014, 6:17 AM by  Alan Stamm

Above: Rep. John Dingell and his wife Debbie, who was 2 when the congressman's father first was elected to the congressional seat she'll seek this year. (Photo by Tammy Haddad)

Debbie Dingell wants to extend a type of congressional coziness stretching back to 1926, when Katherine Langley won a U.S. House seat from Kentucky that her husband held for 10 terms until he resigned. 

This Friday, Dingell formally confirms her campaign to run in November for the seat being vacated by the man she married in 1981, Rep. John Dingell Jr. He's 87 and will retire after 29 terms.

His district, now covering parts of Wayne and Washtenaw counties, has been represented by a Dingell since 1933. Its congressman then was John Dingell the elder. The current occupant won it after his father died in 1955. 

A marital succession prospect brings sharp observations at Hot Air, a conservative blog started in 2006 by Michelle Malkin. Here's part of what's posted by a senior editor using the screen name Allahpundit:

Dingell Sr. . . . took his seat on March 3, 1933, the day before FDR was sworn in as president for his first term. The Dingells have been represented in Congress since before the New Deal.

And at age 60, Debbie’s got a fair shot at a long run herself. If she can serve 19 years, it’ll be a full century of Dingellmania in the House. 

Wayne County Judge Christopher Dingell, son of the congressman, eventually might also try to extend the family dynasty.

But wait, there's another Dingell, as the post notes:

If she can’t serve 19 years, no worries. Christopher Dingell, John’s son, was elected to the state Senate at the tender age of 30 and now serves as a judge. He’s a few years younger than Debbie and is right in line behind her. 

Who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky and have a Dingell-versus-Dingell primary for the old man’s seat. That would be a fittingly grotesque end to having one family dominate its district for more than 80 years. 

Chris Dingell, a Third Circuit Judge in Wayne County since 2003, turned 57 last Sunday -- a day before his dad's retirement announcement.   

If Debbie Dingell wins the House seat this fall, she'd become part of a congressional family handoff that usually involves widows succeeding their late husbands.

Originally, the woman was an interim appointee until the next election. In recent decades, more widows have run successfully to keep their seats, including two California Democrats now in the House -- Lois Capps and Doris Matsui. Another Californian, Mary Bono, won Rep. Sonny Bono's seat in 1998 after his fatal skiing accident. She's a Republican who served seven terms until losing in November 2012.

Overall, 38 widows have won their husbands' House seats and eight have done so in the Senate, according to Wikipedia.       

In Dingell's case, she obviously starts with "huge name identification," Abby Livingston writes this week in CQ Roll Call, an authoritative Washington publication that adds:.

She’s also on the radar of EMILY’s List, an organization that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, could challenge Dingell in August for the U.S. House nomination.

Roll Call also notes that her husband's district "is is a safe Democratic seat. President Barack Obama carried the 12th District twice by more than a two-to-one margin."

Yet "not everyone in Michigan is convinced that Debbie Dingell will have a cleared path to the nomination," Livingston points out. That's because redistricting in 2002 and 2012 stretched the district west to include Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. "The district’s two population centers remain very different," the Washington writer adds.

Dingell could face an Aug. 5 primary challenge from first-term state Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor, who declined to comment on that prospect when Roll Call asked. 

At another Washington publication, The Hill, reporter Cameron Joseph speaks to Mark Gaffney, past head of Michigan's AFL-CIO and head of the Democratic Party committee in Dingell's district. He wants a representative with the same last name: 

"She's been a part of the operation of the office, part of the operation of the district, clearly the constituent services and the political outreach. She's been a part of that for all the years they've been married. She'd be extremely strong."

Earlier at Deadline Detroit:

Debbie Dingell Will Announce Friday She's Running For Her Husband's Seat, Feb. 25

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