Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 2, 2014

George Weeks: Focus on the Dingells, Dave Camp

Syndicated columnist

— Debbie Dingell, seeking to replace her husband, 30-term U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who is retiring after 58 years with the longest tenure in congressional history, has a northern Michigan tie of sorts.

Before her career as an executive with General Motors and a political career that now includes chairing the Wayne State University Board of Governors and serving as Michigan’s Democratic National Committewoman, she was on the staff of Sen. Robert Griffin, R-Traverse City.

Matt Surrell, who was then on Griffin’s staff and later became a vice president at Northern Michigan University, called her “very professional … a joy to be around.”

John Dingell, now 87, succeeded his father in 1955. Prospects that Debbie Dingell, 60, will be the third family member to represent the district are high since it has a 66 percent Democratic base and she has an overwhelming lead over four other party prospects in a poll commissioned by and released last week by Inside Michigan Politics (IMP) newsletter.

She had 51.1 percent in the poll, which tallied 15.7 percent for runner-up state Sen Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.

Susan J. Demas, IMP editor and publisher, said, “Without a drastic series of events, it’s difficult to see how any candidate catches up with Debbie Dingell. Mrs. Dingell has been a constant presence in the district for four decades, which this poll reflects, and she will be a prodigious fundraiser. But as the frontrunner, she also becomes the primary target for attacks.”

John Dingell was widely and justly cited as a champion of the auto industry. Also noted last week were kudos from the environmental community for efforts appreciated Up North.

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters said his “leadership in Congress yielded monumental environmental protection legislation such as the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act as well as establishment of conservation landmarks such as the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Congressman Dingell’s legacy shines as the gold standard for elected officials to rally bipartisan support for policy that values and better protects Michigan’s natural resources.”

Another retiring Michigan lawmaker in recent headlines is six-term Sen. Carl Levin, the state’s longestserving senator, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Not retiring, but the current Michigan congressional headliner on domestic issues is 12-term 4th District Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, who represents a slice of lower northern Michigan below the bridge, and has good ideas to improve Michigan’s complicated tax code.

Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, last week proposed “what a simpler, fairer tax code actually looks like. The guiding principle is that everyone should play by the same rules.”

In a column in the Wall Street Journal, Camp said, “The tax code should make it easier for American companies to bring back profits earned overseas so they be invested here. It should not hinder small businesses from growing into large businesses. And the individual income tax needs to be simpler, fairer and flatter for everyone.”

He said, “the tax code will be made more effective and efficient by getting rid of special-interest handouts, which will mean lower tax rates for individuals, families and all businesses. Under this plan, over 99 percent of tax filers will face a top tax rate of 25 percent — allowing small and large businesses alike to expand operations, hire workers and increase benefits and take home pay. On the individual side, there will be an introductory bracket of 10 percent.”

The Detroit News, after Camp met with its editorial board, said his comprehensive reform “overhauls the current code, streamlines forms, and reduces rates. It’s a good start to what should be a serious effort at tax reform.”

Michigan is losing the clout of John Dingell and Carl Levin on Capitol Hill. But Dave Camp and others, including Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, remain.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.