The nation’s record-holder for House terms will hang up his cleats for the midterm elections. John Dingell, a Democrat who has represented a Dearborn district since the first stirrings of Elvis Presley mania, announced his retirement today after 29 terms in Congress. Dingell has been in the House since 1955 and currently is the 43rd Dean of the lower chamber (via Doug Mataconis):
At a luncheon Monday in his beloved Downriver, the Dearborn representative says he will announce he won’t seek re-election this fall to the seat he’s held since 1955.
“I’m not going to be carried out feet first,” says Dingell, who will be 88 in July. “I don’t want people to say I stayed too long.”
Dingell says his health “is good enough that I could have done it again. My doctor says I’m OK. And I’m still as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill.
“But I’m not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term.”
More than health concerns, Dingell says a disillusionment with the institution drove his decision to retire.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he says. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
It might be tempting to shrug that off as sour grapes in what might be a very difficult re-election bid in the midterms. It’s shaping up early as a wave election like 2010, and Democratic incumbents in both chambers are getting nervous about their prospects. Dingell would be unlikely to be one of those, however. He won his MI-15 race in 2010 by a 61/35 margin even in the Tea Party wave, and his new MI-12 race (after redistricting) in 2012 by an even wider 68/29 result. The new district has a D+14 Cook rating, so the GOP shouldn’t expect miracles.
Republicans might think that they have a shot with Dingell out of the way, but the ballot may have a Dingell on it anyway:
An open congressional seat draws lots of interest. It’s no secret the congressman would like to see the Dingell tenure continue. While she won’t announce her candidacy Monday, his wife of 38 years, Debbie, a Democratic National Committee member and former General Motors executive, will almost certainly run.
Aren’t Dearbornites interested in voting for someone who hasn’t been in Washington for four decades? The point of House representation is to represent the district, not Washington DC. With Hillary Clinton potentially at the top of a nostalgia ticket in 2016, though, Debbie Dingell will fit right in.