Dingell Might Face Primary Battle


The 46-year House career of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) could be in jeopardy
if a federal court upholds Michigan's realignment of House seats.

In September, John Engler, Michigan's Republican governor, signed into law a
redistricting plan that would eliminate one House seat due to population loss
and create new boundaries that would, among other things, place Dingell in the
same southeastern-corner district with another House Democratic incumbent, Rep.
Lynn Rivers of Ann Arbor.

Both Dingell and Rivers, a four-term incumbent, are fighting the new
political map in federal court. Both have made public statements
that they intend to seek re-election next November, even if it means facing each
other in a primary.

Dingell, 75, is the longest-serving member of the House, first elected in
1955 in a special election to succeed his late father, who won his first House
race in 1932 in the landslide election of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, cited a Rivers political
consultant as saying that Rivers could have the edge in a primary with Dingell
because of her strong Ann Arbor base's opposition to Dingell's hostility toward
certain federal gun-control proposals.

A major force in cable, broadcasting and telecommunications issues for
decades, Dingell was chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from
1981 through 1995 and he is currently the panel's senior Democrat.

Dingell is co-sponsoring a bill (H.R. 1542) with House Energy and Commerce
Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) that would deregulate the high-speed
Internet services of the Baby Bell local phone companies.

If Dingell were to lose his seat and if Democrats were to retake the majority
in the House in the 2002 elections, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would, in all
likelihood, become the next chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Although Waxman has shown little interest in media issues -- focusing instead
on health care and the environment -- he caused a stir earlier this year in a
clash with NBC News over its calls in last November's presidential election.

Waxman asked NBC to surrender in-house videotapes allegedly showing
then-General Electric Co. chairman and CEO Jack Welch ordering NBC News
personnel to call the election for Republican candidate George Bush.

NBC officials have denied the existence of such video and called Waxman's
allegations false.