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Dingell, Upton could face tough battles

Jan 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Two influential Michigan congressmen who hold powerful seats on panels regulating the television industry could face tough primary battles this August.
Assuming that federal and state courts in Michigan uphold a redistricting plan proposed by the GOP-controlled legislature and enacted by GOP Gov. John Engler, Democrat Rep. John Dingell would face incumbent Democrat Rep. Lynn Rivers in the Aug. 6 primary. Parts of their districts would be consolidated into one under the plan.
Meanwhile, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, could face GOP State Sen. Dale Shugars in the primary. It’s a longshot that Mr. Shugars will run, but if he does, he could be a strong challenger.
“Dale has consistently run and won with right-to-life support,” said Charlotte Channing, editorial page editor for the Kalamazoo Gazette, noting that Rep. Upton’s district is very conservative.
The newly formed congressional district affecting Rep. Dingell and Rep. Rivers would include Ann Arbor, the liberal college town now in Rep. Rivers’ district.
That could be a problem for Rep. Dingell, who’s been a House member for 46 years and is ranking minority member on the House Energy and Commerce panel, because he’s opposed some gun control initiatives, which are popular in Ann Arbor. Rep. Rivers has a reputation as a more liberal-minded lawmaker.
Nevertheless, sources last week said Rep. Dingell, who will rely on a substantially larger war chest and has stronger name recognition, is likely to prevail. If he wins the primary he’d almost certainly win re-election because the Republicans have yet to field an opponent and the new district would be mostly Democratic. Rep. Upton’s Democratic challenger just dropped out for health reasons and has yet to be replaced.
The Michigan State Supreme Court will hold Jan. 23 oral arguments on the redistricting plan.
Both Rep. Dingell and Rep. Upton are members of a congressional roundtable that’s seeking to speed up the transition to digital TV.
The Democrats challenging the GOP redistricting plan have put forward their own proposal, which would consolidate Rep. Upton’s district with that of GOP Rep. Peter Hoekstra, creating the potential for another primary opponent.