For nearly 90 years, a Dingell has represented Metro Detroit. Here’s why Debbie Dingell resonates with those voters.
DEARBORN, MI — One of the first calls of the night in Tuesday’s primary election came from Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Debbie Dingell and her Republican challenger Jeff Jones decisively won their respective races, setting up their November showdown.
“Thank you to every member of Team Dingell,” she tweeted. “Whether you made a contribution, volunteered with us, or supported us in the community, you made this happen!”
The showdown with Jones is one that Dingell is likely to win. Her district aligns with her policies like access to healthcare and has supported the Dingell family for almost a hundred years.
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Dingell is the widow of former Rep. John Dingell, who spent 59 years representing Michiganders in Washington, and stands as the longest serving member of Congress. John replaced his father who was first elected to represent Metro Detroit in 1932. A Dingell has represented Michigan for nearly 90 years.
John got less than 60% of the vote only twice in his long career, and Debbie has so far bested 60% every race since her husband retired in 2014.
When she first stepped up to replace her retiring husband, she already realized the magnitude of running for Congress in the Detroit area with the last name Dingell, and took on that pressure with wit.
“There is no one in this district — no one — who has a better sense of just how big his shoes will be to fill,” she said in 2014. “I’m the one who does the shoe shopping.”
But even before her time as a congresswoman, Dingell was not a typical congressional spouse. She started her career at General Motors — eventually managing the GM Foundation — and used her own understanding of media and politics and her husband’s connections to pursue her own form of public service from serving on the Democratic National Committee to helming the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
Crain’s Business wrote in 2010 that Dingell pursued her career in public service as a result of the force of personality she represents, and did so regardless of her eventual congressional career. She wasn’t just John Dingell’s wife, she was her own force in Michigan politics.
“I take that legacy seriously, I’m proud of it, but I’m my own person. I’m Debbie Dingell, who has a job interview every two years with the people of the 12th district,” she told CBS in January.
In her time in Washington, Debbie Dingell has voted for disaster relief following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and supported rural development among other major policies. A major vote of hers was her vote to impeach President Donald Trump in 2019, an act for which Trump said her husband was burning in Hell.
“I love John Dingell. I loved him every single minute of my life. But I’m also a woman who didn’t know John Dingell when I started my career, when I got my job at General Motors,” she said. “I am my own person. And I think it’s about time — it is 2020 — that women should be judged on their career, their experiences, what we deliver, and not because of who you were married to.”
Dingell will face off against her Republican competitor in the general election Nov. 3.