Michigan Democrats — April 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm

While pundits are busy anointing Gary Peters for Senate, Debbie Dingell puts up strong poll numbers


Let’s take a breath here for a minute, shall we?

You can’t read an article or blog post about the race to fill departing Senator Carl Levin’s seat without hearing how Gary Peters is the leading contender, almost as if the seat is his if he wants it.

While Peters is, without question, a great candidate and certainly someone to watch, Debbie Dingell actually came out 5 points ahead of him in a recent Mitchell poll commissioned by the Detroit News.

In other words, if she were to run, Debbie Dingell would give any other Democrat a very solid run for their money.

In the Democratic primary, we found Debbie Dingell leading Gary Peters by a 5 percent margin (30-25) with almost half of the voters (45 percent) undecided. {…}

On the Democratic side, those tested were Peters, who represents parts of Oakland and Wayne Counties in the U.S. House of Representatives and Debbie Dingell, a former auto executive and Democratic Party State Committee member. She is the wife of Congressman John Dingell, the longest serving member of the United States House of Representative in American history.

What is particularly puzzling to me is how the liberal blogs in Michigan are portraying Debbie Dingell in truly horrible fashion. One of the things that increased my appreciation for Dingell over the past couple of years was watching her stand in a huge crowd of mostly female University of Michigan students at an Ann Arbor Planned Parenthood rally in 2011.

She exhorted the young women there not to let the gains women achieved in the past be squandered:

Debbie Dingell, an active leader in the Democratic Party and wife of Dean of the House, Congressman John Dingell, pointed out that we wouldn’t be having this fight if Democrats had turned out in sufficient numbers last November. She told the crowd that this should be a rallying cry for them to get organized and active in preparation for 2012. She told them that most of them are too young to remember the fights for a woman’s right to have an abortion that culminated with the passage of Roe vs. Wade in the early 70s. She urged the students not to take the battles waged by their mothers and aunts for granted. “I never thought I’d have to be at a rally like this at my age and fight for what we already fought for,” she told them. “This is about the most basic issues of quality care for women. Do not become quiet and complacent and take it for granted. Make sure we keep progress happening and don’t go backward.”

Yet progressive pundits like Jeff Wattrick at Deadline Detroit seem to have nothing but negative things to say about Dingell, with Wattrick calling her “a consummate smoke-filled room power broker” whose political history is full of “unmitigated disasters”. The worst he could find to say about Peters is that “he isn’t a statewide name”. With all due respect to Wattrick, there isn’t a politician out there who doesn’t have some failures in their past. That’s the nature of politics and sticking your neck out to fight for what you believe in. The most galling thing about his comments are the soft sexism in them. Male politicians who work behind the scenes are generally seen as effective politicians who get things done. Why, then, the derogatory reference to Dingell? If anyone thinks Gary Peters got to where he is today without working behind the scenes at times, they are quite mistaken.

Debbie Dingell at a recent Ann Arbor Dems meeting
Debbie Dingell at a recent Ann Arbor Dems meeting
Michigan Liberal’s Eric Baerren has written no less than four anti-Dingell pieces in the past month with juvenile titles like “Debbie Dingell: An idea whose time will never come” and “Today in ‘If you say mean things about Debbie Dingell, she’ll have a sad'”. Baerren’s childish insults aside, his claim that Dingell is “working the phones to gin up interest in her as a Senate candidate” is 180 degrees the opposite from the reality based on what I’ve heard from sources close to her. Rather, Dingell is being heavily recruited by groups that aren’t 100% happy with Gary Peters and by women’s groups like Emily’s List who are eager to expand the number of women in the U.S. Senate from it’s current paltry level of 20.

I get that Gary Peters is a name that comes immediately to mind for this Senate seat. He’s earned that and I am a huge fan of Gary Peters, make no mistake. However, he’s not the only candidate that can win and there are plenty of reasons that a candidate like Debbie Dingell or someone else can win, as well. Perhaps we should let the process play itself out as it is supposed to before anointing one candidate and demonizing others. Ironically, that’s the central theme of Wattrick’s Deadline Detroit piece.

This race won’t be fully underway for another 6-9 months. In fact, there aren’t actually any declared candidates for it on either side of the aisle yet! Maybe, possibly, could we wait until they DO announce before we begin tearing down some candidates and prematurely crowning others as victors?

[Photos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]