- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Pro-gun Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving member in the House, was trying to hold on to his seat last night in the Democratic primary against the surging campaign of Rep. Lynn Rivers.
Mrs. Rivers was receiving a boost from having another female candidate, Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, at the top of the Democratic ticket in the gubernatorial primary, said independent pollster Ed Sarpolus. Early exit polling showed Mrs. Granholm leading her race.
"It has been very helpful" having a female candidate for governor, said Rivers spokesman Matt Burgess.
Mr. Dingell, 76, who has served 47 years in the House, saw his 10-point lead in the polls vanish in the final days of the campaign, with pollsters rating the race as even yesterday.
The race, which could total $8 million in spending by both camps, was Mr. Dingell's first serious challenge since the 1960s and featured a theme of the party's old guard versus new blood.
Mrs. Rivers, a four-term incumbent supported by feminists and gun-control groups, was thrown into a new congressional district with Mr. Dingell this year when the Republican-controlled state Legislature redrew the boundaries. The redesigned 15th District has slightly more voters from Mrs. Rivers' old district than from Mr. Dingell's former base.
Rather than retire, Mrs. Rivers waged an uphill campaign against the Democratic legend.
Mr. Dingell's status as the dean of House Democrats and a powerful voice for union workers didn't prevent Democratic leaders such as House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi of California from lending crucial support to Mrs. Rivers.
Gun control was an issue in the primary because Mr. Dingell is a leading advocate for gun owners among Democrats and Mrs. Rivers supports more gun regulations. For the most part, she resisted attacking Mr. Dingell's record directly on guns, instead promoting her record of gun control as a safety issue for children.
"Guns played a big, big role in this race," Mr. Burgess said.
Mr. Dingell had the support of the National Rifle Association, auto workers and law enforcement groups. He also received help on the campaign trail last week from Tipper Gore, who said she and her husband, former Vice President Al Gore, had been friends with the Dingells for 30 years.
Mrs. Rivers had backing from the gun-control advocates such as Sarah Brady, pro-choice groups and the environmental lobby.
The feminist lobby EMILY's List also paid for five mailings on her behalf.
In 1955, Mr. Dingell was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the seat of his father, John Dingell Sr., who died of tuberculosis after holding the seat since 1933. He has served as the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The political profile of Mrs. Rivers, 45, has been far lower. She campaigned largely on her personal life story as a mother who had two children before age 21 and worked her way out of poverty to a successful political career.
The gun-control lobby organized an aggressive campaign to oust Mr. Dingell, with some of its representatives working in the district for several months against him.
The Dingell campaign late last week ran ads criticizing Mrs. Rivers for her lack of legislative accomplishments.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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