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Debbie Dingell wins reelection in the new 6th Congressional District

Debbie Dingell
Rep. Debbie Dingell
Debbie Dingell


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And we're about to wrap up post-election coverage for Morning Edition. I do encourage you to stay tuned to WEMU and to visit our website and Facebook pages as we will continue to update election information for you throughout the day, concluding with All Things Considered between four and seven this afternoon. Once again, I'm David Fair. Before we go for the morning, we do have one more conversation for you. Debbie Dingell has won the sixth District congressional race, defeating a Republican challenge from Whitney Williams of Canton. Dingell is going to serve another two years on the U.S. House of Representatives. But more immediately, the Ann Arbor Democrat is on the other end of the WEMU news line. Thank you for the time, and congratulations on the win, Representative Dingell.

Debbie Dingell: Good morning, David. Thank you for the congratulations. And it was an interesting night last night. A lot of messages.

David Fair: I can imagine. Before we get into your personal race for a moment, I'm curious. You must have been paying very close attention to how elections were going across the country, how that would impact the congressional makeup, and what was happening in the Michigan Legislature and how that may change.

Debbie Dingell: So, I watched, and I was working on many of those races across the country and, for sure, within the new sixth District, working on a number of very important and significant state legislative races. And, you know, I was telling many people,--the pollsters, the pundits--that I felt that this election had not yet broken. And, in this state, but across the country, there were many races that were very close, and that people were deciding how they were going to vote. And I think there were--I mean, iit's as simplistic to say this because there were other issues. But the economy mattered, and some were driven by that. But I think people were also worried about the choice issue and about democracy. And I think you saw close elections. I think you saw people that were worried about what they were seeing happening to our democracy, were hearing that, you know, maybe something have been done to address the economy. We had tight races, but the pillars got pulled out or a race in Grand Rapids picking up a Democratic seat and Republican seats. Both Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee did win. They had tight races, but they won. And in Macomb County, it's still not called. I suspect John James will win it, but it was a much closer race than people thought it would be.

David Fair: Some consider this to be a repudiation of election deniers and the far-right wing. But, as you mentioned, most all of these races were very close. That is not a contingent that is going anywhere anytime soon. How best to move forward?

Debbie Dingell: So, I'm going to be blunt. I don't think it's a repudiation of the election deniers, because I think we saw a significant number of election deniers in Michigan. And there are people that really are election deniers. They are trying to instigate trouble, training people to disrupt polls. And I put that group of people in one category. But I do believe, you know, let them. I go in union halls and people who tell me that Donald Trump won the election against Joe Biden, I do think people are disturbed by the level of political violence that they're seeing. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions. And I think we all have to be intentional to be Americans and to try to take the vitriolicness out of our politics, to listen to each other, treat each other respectfully. And I do think that there were people that voted that way because that's what they want to see. So, I think that is one message. And the fact is we did pick up. Democrats will control the House and the Senate in the Michigan Legislature.

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with Democrat Debbie Dingell following her reelection to the sixth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. So, why don't we talk about your race for a moment? It was one of the more interesting races I've covered in over 30 years of work in media. Your opponent was virtually invisible throughout and yet garnered about 30% of the votes. It was people voting for an ideal instead of a person because there was no campaigning. What are you going to discuss as you continue to involve and engage those who voted against you?

Debbie Dingell: So, the biggest issue for me, and what I've worked very hard on...by the way, her primary opponent spent a lot of money and did a number of regular attacks on me, calling me a Pelosi puppet, which I am decidedly not. I have sort of enjoyed that when it came out because the speaker had been very mad at me, because I had been protecting Michigan over something she wanted to do, and I won. But I want the people of the new cities to get to know me. So, I worked very hard to get to know the new communities: Plymouth Township. Northfield Township. Canton. Novi. I want to know everything there is to know what their issues are, their rituals, their traditions, their cultural events. So, that's important to me. I'm also picking up western Washtenaw that was represented by Tim Walberg. There have been some there.

David Fair: He has been reelected to Congress as well.

Debbie Dingell: He has been, but he's not going to be representing western Washtenaw right now. And that is a new area for me. Some of the mayors and supervisors, I think, wanted to wait till the election was over before they started to develop relationships, while there other areas there, like Saline, Chelsea, and Dexter, I've immersed myself in. And I've been over to Milan and gotten to know the firefighters and the police and the law enforcement. That's what my job is to do: know those communities, get into those communities. I had a luxury that I don't have to monetize people. So, I want them to get to know me and in a way that they just get to know me and I get to know them without a lot of politics connected.

David Fair: You are about to enter a lame-duck session of Congress. Inflation is on high. Income insecurity is growing. The social and racial issues that have been at the fore remain unresolved to a good degree. Is there a plan to address those issues over the next month and a half with the current legislature?

Debbie Dingell: There are a number of things that we have to get done in the next month. One, and most importantly, is passing a budget for the government, which the current one expires on December 16th. We will try to address some of those issues. I think we have to do things like DOMA. I think we've got a Supreme Court that people are very worried will overturn same-sex marriage. And it would be very difficult to get that through if the House, even if it is only a few members that the plurality...if the Republicans. It is not clear who is going to control the House yet. That would be clear. So, I think social policy that we're very worried that really are...everybody agrees is where we are in this land like, Roe versus Wade was, we need to try to address. We saw the Senate that will move bills on issues, like some of the ones that you brought up, David, on voting rights, etc.. If we're lucky, we're going to pick up one more senator. And the president has said that he is going to take some of these issues and not allow them to be filibuster-proof. So, I think you'll see some issues work down before the end of the year and new strategies for the beginning of the next Congress.

David Fair: Once again, the makeup of Congress remains an unknown as we speak this morning. But, the select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the nation's Capitol has been long at work, and that work is not yet completed. Now, depending on final outcomes of the House, there may be changes in leadership. Does all of that work go away under a GOP-controlled legislative branch?

Debbie Dingell: I believe it is the committee's intent to issue that report before the end of the year. So, that report will come out. I believe the Justice Department is going to be looking at issues. The Justice Department will continue forth on those and what else happens. It's just clearly they're determined on who leadership is for the new congressional session and what is done in that area.

David Fair: Well, as we approach a new year and a new legislative session, and you look to 2023 and another two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, what are you most optimistic about?

Debbie Dingell: Look, I'm going to work very hard, David, to work with my colleagues across the aisle. There are just too many issues that are still people are struggling for. I want to make sure that Social Security and Medicare stay strong, that we're not going to let members try and privatize them or cut them. I'm very focused on long-term care, continuing to ensure that the auto industry stays at the forefront of innovation and technology, that we're getting grants that are coming into Michigan that's being used to incentivize both infrastructure and batteries that we're making sure those are going to working men and women--union members, not Southern plants. I swear to God I'm going to get my PFAS action bill done. I have a number of bills on pollution and the environment that I'm working very hard. There are several I'm still trying to get done by the end of this year. I'm me, so I have, you know, my normal, full agenda. So, I want to make sure that telehealth is here to stay and some of my telehealth bills actually get enacted, so that continues. I got a long list of things that I'm really working hard on.

David Fair: Well, we will have plenty of occasion as we move forward to talk about many of those things. And, in the interim, we'll await and see what the outcome is going to be, whether we learn that at some point today or in the week ahead. We'll find out, and we'll pick up the conversation there. Thank you so much for the time today.

Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. And be safe.

David Fair: That is Ann Arbor Democrat Debbie Dingell. She is going to serve another two years in Congress, when sworn in again in January. She moves from her current 12th District seat to the newly redistricted sixth seat for the new term. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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