Debbi Dingell announces her candidacy for the Congressional seat left vacant by her husband, John Dingell, when he retires, Feb. 28, 2014, in Dearborn, Mich.
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Debbie Dingell throws hat in Michigan race

Updated

Debbie Dingell formally announced her plans Friday to run for the House seat her husband, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, is retiring from.

“I respect the fact that he’s decided it’s time,” Debbie Dingell said of her husband, who is the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history. “There is no one in this district—no one—who has a better sense of just how big his shoes will be to fill, because I’m the one who does the shoe shopping.”

“Let’s be clear, I’m not running to replace John Dingell,” she continued. “I think he’s irreplaceable. I am running to carry on the fight he has successfully waged for nearly 60 years.”

She’ll have to raise 1,000 signatures by late April to make it onto the November ballot.

In her address, Dingell hit on the right buzzwords for the Democratic district—women, jobs, workers and education—before closing with what could be a big selling point in the election: her history of bipartisanship.

“Yesterday, I attended the Taylor mayor’s State of the City address. He closed with a quote from Henry Ford, and I love it so much, I asked him if I could borrow it: ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,’” she said. “I want that to be the theme of my campaign.”

It’s an obvious theme for a woman who has been organizing annual bipartisan get-togethers for women—both those serving in government and lawmakers’ wives—since the 1990s. It may also help set her apart from her husband, who is leaving what he calls an “obnoxious” Congress gripped by partisanship.

Dingell is already a clear frontrunner. Besides her husband’s presumed and influential endorsement, she also has a number of big-name supporters.

“Anyone who knows Debbie is dazzled by her intellect, her talent and her resolve to get the job done,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told The Washington Post. “For the many years I have known her, she has been not only a working partner to her husband, the dean of the House, but a strong champion for the people of the state of Michigan.” 

If she wins, she’ll be the third Dingell to hold the office; before John Dingell, his father held the office for 22 years before his son held the office for 58 years.

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Debbie Dingell throws hat in Michigan race

Updated