- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

The battle between Michigan Democratic Reps. John D. Dingell and Lynn Rivers is heating up in the homestretch of the Aug. 6 primary.

"It's shaped up to be a brutal race," said Jason Brewer, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Redistricting has forced Mr. Dingell the longest-serving member of the House into a race with fellow Democrat Mrs. Rivers, who is serving her fourth term in the House. The two are set to debate each other today in a Dearborn, Mich., event sponsored by the AARP.

Mr. Dingell is holding a double-digit lead in the race, according to a poll conducted this week by Garin-Hart-Yang for Mr. Dingell's camp. The poll of 600 likely Democratic primary voters found Mr. Dingell at 50 percent and Mrs. Rivers at 38 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted this week by the Feldman Group for EMILY's List a feminist fund-raising organization backing Mrs. Rivers found the two candidates in a dead heat, each with 47 percent of the vote.

Mr. Dingell, a force in Washington who opposes his party on the issue of gun control, has consistently highlighted his experience, accomplishments in Congress and ability to get things done. He has seniority in his party and is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We're doing great," Mr. Dingell said last week of his campaign. He said he has always thought that in the end, people vote for "the person they think has done and will do the most" for them. "One word: effectiveness," he said.

Mrs. Rivers meanwhile, has sought to set herself apart from Mr. Dingell on the issues of abortion, gun control and the environment, highlighting her "unique experiences" that have shaped her as a legislator, Mrs. Rivers' campaign press secretary, Matt Burgess, said.

She is "working to make sure kids are protected from gun violence, working to keep corporate polluters out of neighborhoods and she's 100 percent pro-choice," Mr. Burgess said.

Mr. Dingell's campaign spokeswoman, Laura Sheehan, said Mr. Dingell "consistently votes to support" abortion rights as well, and was given a 73 percent rating by Planned Parenthood.

As of this week, Mr. Dingell had raised $2.4 million, of which $761,960 is still available. Mrs. Rivers had raised more than $1.4 million and had a little less than $500,000 left, according to the two camps.

The redrawn district the two are competing to represent is solidly Democratic, but there are two different types of Democrats there blue-collar workers and more liberal, university types.

Mr. Brewer noted that the labor groups have lined up behind Mr. Dingell, while feminist groups such as EMILY's List have supported Mrs. Rivers.

Today's debate will focus largely on health care issues, such as prescription-drug coverage for seniors.

Miss Sheehan said that while both candidates support the House Democratic bill that would provide a prescription-drug benefit under Medicare, Mr. Dingell crafted it and has a "lifelong record of writing health care legislation" in Congress. He supported the patients' bill of rights and a law providing health insurance to millions of children.

Next week, gun-control advocate Sarah Brady will join Mrs. Rivers in promoting the gun-control issue, while Tipper Gore will be in Michigan supporting Mr. Dingell, as will actress Lynda Carter, known for her role as TV's "Wonder Woman."

Despite all the polls and endorsements, however, Mr. Brewer said it is hard to tell what the outcome will be on Aug. 6.

"It has the potential to be a very high-turnout race and a hard one to call," he said.

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