End of the Line

Carl Levin never shortchanged Michigan.

In an ever-growing world of political cynicism---both from the constituents and from the lawmakers themselves---it was good for Michiganders to know that Levin, the six-term U.S. Senator who won't seek a seventh, was on the job.

He may go down as one of the best, most effective senators ever to represent the great state of Michigan. Hell, he may be the best.

I used to think that no one would eclipse Phil Hart in that category, but Levin has changed my mind after well over 30 years on the job.

Levin won election in 1978. It was the Republican Bob Griffin whose seat Levin won. Griffin initially didn't seek re-election but then changed his mind. But it was too late; Levin wasn't to be denied.

It was Levin and Don Riegle in those days---two Democrats who were progressive, young and determined to make their mark in Washington. Riegle had won Hart's old seat, in 1976.

Riegle was Michigan's senior senator by just two years, but Levin has held that distinction since 1988. With the exception of Spencer Abraham's one term (1994-2000), Levin has worked lockstep with another Democrat as his junior senator.

The news that Levin won't seek a seventh term in 2014 is bittersweet.

On the one hand, the 79-year-old will enjoy much-deserved retirement. He'll be able to watch his beloved Tigers play more often.

On the other, Levin's absence leaves the senate seat wide open, obviously. And there's no guarantee that another Democrat will just automatically capture the seat.

Already, though, Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) says he's mulling over a run at the seat in 2014.

"I'm going to seriously consider it," he told the Free Press. "We need to hold on to that seat."

That's an understatement, but with Abraham's exception, Michigan voters haven't sent a Republican to the Senate since Griffin in 1972. They tend to do so with governors, but not with senators.

Still, the idea of no longer having Levin---longtime Chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee---working for Michigan, isn't a warm and fuzzy one for Democrats.

But Levin was no partisan fool. He wasn't so liberal that he couldn't see the forest for the trees. But he didn't suffer the fools on the other side easily, either.

The significance of Levin's service wasn't lost on President Barack Obama, a former colleague in the chamber.

"If you've ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you've had a voice and a vote in Sen. Carl Levin," the president said in a statement.

No joke.


  1. I worked on Senator Griffin's campaign... haven't liked Levin since then.


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