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February 24, 2014

Dingell, longest-serving congressman, to retire

SOUTHGATE, Mich. (AP) — Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history and a master of legislative deal-making who has championed the Detroit auto industry, announced Monday that he won't seek re-election.

The Michigan Democrat, who was elected to his late father's seat in 1955 and has held it ever since, said during a speech to a Detroit-area Chamber of Commerce that he couldn't have met his own standards if he had been elected to another term in November.

"I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district," the 87-year-old Dingell said. "That time has come."

He fueled speculation that his wife, Deborah Dingle, might run for his seat, saying she would have his vote if she does.

Dingell became the longest-serving member of Congress ever in June when he broke the record held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

As a congressional page, years before he took over his father's seat, Dingell watched firsthand as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Congress to declare war on Japan in his "Day of Infamy" address.

As a congressman and former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell played a role in several landmark pieces of progressive legislation, including the passage of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul and the creation of Medicare.

"Presidents come and presidents go," former President Bill Clinton said in 2005, when Dingell celebrated 50 years in Congress. "John Dingell goes on forever."

Dubbed "Big John" for his imposing 6-foot-3 frame and sometimes intimidating manner, a reputation bolstered by the wild game heads decorating his Washington office, Dingell has served with every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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