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Rep. Dingell prepares to relocate to Ann Arbor after redistricting

Debbie Dingell
Michigan House Democrats

While WEMU's David Fair was on medical leave, much has happened in 12th Congressional District Representative Debbie Dingell's world. Recent redistricting has now placed her in Michigan's 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Washtenaw County. Fair and Dingell discuss her plans for living in Ann Arbor and the challenges facing  America's supply chain issues.


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David Fair: And this is 89 one WEMU, and today we're going to resume a conversation series that had to be put on hold while I was away on medical leave. I'm David Fair, and on the other end of the line today is 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell, and we haven't had the opportunity to speak on the air since mid-October of last year. It's good to connect with you again.

Debbie Dingell: David, welcome back. I'm glad you're OK. Happy Winter. So be careful out there. Don't slip and slide. And I'm just glad to hear your voice. 

David Fair: Yeah, it is good to be back. I assure you of that. Feels like coming home. So much has happened since we last spoke, and that includes issuance of redrawn political maps and boundaries here in Michigan. As it now stands, you would no longer be in the 12th Congressional District, but instead in the newly-drawn 6th District. It is to include all of Washtenaw County and some of what is now the 12th District. In all, if reelected, you would continue representing about 60 percent of your current constituency, but not in your hometown of Dearborn. So going back to December, when those maps were released, what was your initial gut response? 

Debbie Dingell: So, you know, the people of Michigan spoke when they voted to have a nonpartisan commission, and I respected that, and we're going to respect whatever they did. I knew that I would not run in the voting rights district. I believe it's very important that a congressional delegation represents the diversity of our state. So, I've known for about a year that there was a good chance that Dearborn could be drawn into a Detroit seat, which it was. All combined, depending on which map it was, one of the maps had more than 70 percent of the current 12. I knew I was going to run in the district that had most people that I currently represent. I spent a lot of time in every one of the cities that I represent now. So, I knew I was going to make the decision to move now. And I have bought a home in Ann Arbor, a condo. I'm like every other American that's buying a home right now. It needs a lot of work and it's going to take twice as long and twice as much, and that's probably freaking me out a little, too. But, you know, we can't move from a place you live with the man that you loved with the anniversary of his death is coming up this weekend. Oh gosh, here I go. But I'm moving to a city that I know a ton of people. I'm there every weekend and nobody can take my friends or the community that I love away from me. Friends are friends. Communities you love and life has changed. So, change is coming. But I'm still going to represent the bulk of the people I represent now. I'm still going to work hard, and I'm going to help pull people together in the broader Southeast Michigan for what matters for all of them.

David Fair: You've already made the purchase and are in the process of making the move to Ann Arbor. But there are still core challenges out there. Yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed one lawsuit, but there are two others pending. Would you be in favor of the citizen-led redistricting commission going back to the table and taking another look at how the state should be divvied up?

Debbie Dingell: I think that people like me need to keep their mouths shut and let the commission do its work and people that want to challenge it challenge it. Our job is to respect the will of the Michigan people, so we'll see what happens. There are two different cases--one's in the federal court and is a challenge on the congressional maps. If some of the numbers are off by a little, we'll have to see what the federal court does, and there is some speculation that the numbers could be changed a little. I don't think you would see significant changes to the congressioness, but I don't know. The second lawsuit is on the State House legislative seats. I know a lot of people have strong feelings. But, David, I just think electeds like me should probably let the will of the people play out and then run in the district where I represented the most people. And that's what I'm going to do. And, by the way, while I own the house, I'm not officially a voter over there. I wanted to move by Easter, and the contractor took one look at me and said, "You're not moving by Easter." So, I'm in the house every week. But like everybody in this country, there are a lot of challenges with getting things that you need. And I think I'm going to have to fight my frustration. But I share--I empathize--with many others as I am going through this process. 

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And you just mentioned at one of the many major issues we're confronted with is the ongoing struggles with supply chain. It's impacting virtually every aspect of our lives, and consumer prices are going up at historical rates as a result. One of the most glaring examples is semiconductor chips. They go in so many consumer products, including our vehicles, and there's a global shortage. Most of the chips are produced in China, and because we can't get enough, the auto industry is suffering. In fact, while dealerships are certainly paying much more for used cars these days because of the shortage, we're paying more for those as well. And on the new car front, my daughter just bought a new car in a state where she lives, and they flat out told her they were adding $2000 to the cost of the car just because they're in such short supply. So, where is the resolution to the supply chain issues? 

Debbie Dingell: So, it's very complicated, and quite frankly, let's just say the speaker knows how I feel on this, and I have been very tenacious and relentless on trying to get us to the point. Today, we will vote on a bill called America Competes, which has money in there to bring chip production back to this country. Here are some texts that people need to know. When I started in the auto industry, almost 40 percent of the chips were made--semiconductor chips--were made in America. Now that number is down to 12 percent. The Commerce Department did a study that shows us that we are down to a five-day supply of chips. 

David Fair: And the reason for the move abroad was to make things less expensive. And now it is becoming more and more expensive. 

Debbie Dingell: And it's not only an economic issue, it is a national security issue. You talked about most of the chips being made in China. Actually, most of the chips are made in Taiwan. And what I just am so fearful of that, you know, we had a slowdown because Taiwan had very bad COVID. It wasn't doing a lot of things that we were doing in this country to mitigate it. And they were shutting down their plants. We are always worried that China may invade Taiwan. And if that happens, that is like one of the most frightening scenarios I worry about right now. I do believe this bill will pass today.

David Fair: It will pass the House. 

Debbie Dingell: It will pass the House. Now we have to go to conference, and I have been relentless. I have talked to the president. I talked to the secretary of commerce almost every day, to our speaker. We have to get this done by the State of the Union. We cannot get caught in the--I'd like to use words I'm not allowed to use in the radio--between the Senate and the House. This is our everyday lives. The auto industry needs it, but it's not only the auto industry. We don't even produce in this country the chips that are needed for the most sophisticated equipment like cell phones and satellites and other things that we need for our national security. This is a crisis. It needs action. It is something that we should be coming together on in a very bipartisan way and getting done, and I have every intention of saying that--you know how I can be somedays-- intense. My intensity is not going away until this is on the president's desk. And he signs it. 

David Fair: To move manufacturing primarily back to the United States and to create that infrastructure once again, do you see that as a public/private venture or would it fall exclusively to corporate America?

Debbie Dingell: At the moment, it is a public/private venture. We have to help incentivize bringing that. By the way, this bill that we're going to consider today is also got other supply chain provisions in it. I mean, I have a bill in there that will establish an office at the Secretary of Commerce to be monitoring this. So, we are identifying where our needs are and what we need to do. You know, when I started in the auto industry, we have this just in time delivery system, which reduced costs. But this just in time has really endangered us when we were in times of trouble. And most people didn't understand what a supply chain even was until we had this pandemic. And we did not have masks or gloves or hand sanitizers. We cannot let that happen again. We have to attack that issue. I do believe that some of this has been COVID caused. It started...you know, I'm not even into finger-pointing right now. We are addressing some of the logistical challenges. Things are getting into ports. We're addressing the truck drivers. People have been out, so shelves haven't been stocked because businesses have had people out with COVID. We're going to see some of the issues are going to get better. Some of that aren't get better until we take very intentional, deliberate action. 

David Fair: Well, we will continue the conversation on supply chain next week, and we will add in components of conversation about U.S. and Russian relations as well. I thank you for joining us today.

Debbie Dingell: David, it is great to hear your voice. I'm just glad you're doing OK. 

David Fair: Thank you very much. That is Debbie Dingell and, for the moment, representing the 12th Congressional District, but under the redrawn political maps will run for reelection in the new 6th Congressional District. I'm David Fair, and this is 891 WEMU FM and WEMU HD One Ypsilanti. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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