WASHINGTON - An anemic quarterly fundraising report filed by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, may suggest that there is some truth to widespread rumors that the longtime Michigan congressman is looking at retirement.
Levin's campaign report for the period from July 1 through Sept. 30 was filed Sunday. It showed he had raised just $17,000 during those three months and less than $98,000 overall since the beginning of the year toward the 2018 election.
That's a far cry from last election cycle, when he raised $1.3 million overall and, in the same quarterly period as this in 2015, nearly $167,000, despite facing a little-known opponent, Chris Morse, whom he went on to beat by more than 20 percentage points.
Levin's office downplayed the suggestion, noting correctly that his campaign currently has almost as much cash on hand now as it did at this point in the last election cycle. But neither did it say outright that the 86-year-old congressman definitely plans to run.
“He feels very confident he can wage a successful campaign," said his spokeswoman, Emily Del Morone, who suggested Levin's level of fundraising was due to his being more focused on battling Republican initiatives on health care, taxes and immigration.
Much of the current cash on hand — about $190,000 — is because of funds left over from last year's election, however.
Levin is currently in his 18th two-year term and rumors have been swirling in Michigan that he could be ready to exit after a long career in public service. A former chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Levin stepped aside last year as its ranking Democrat.
Then, this year, his longtime chief of staff, Hilarie Chambers, stepped down from that role, joining the Michigan organization Reading Works as its director. Levin's younger brother, Carl, didn't run for re-election to a seventh 6-year term in 2014 and stepped down as Michigan's longest-serving U.S. senator ever after 36 years in early 2015.
Sandy Levin was a state senator in Michigan before running twice unsuccessfully for governor and then becoming a congressman and one of the state's most recognizable and well-known politicians. Even with the slow fundraising he has shown so far this election cycle, if Levin decides to run again, there is little question he could raise enough money to do so and mount a formidable campaign.
If Levin does step down from a seat he was first elected to in 1982, however, he would join his brother and a list of long-term incumbents who have stepped down in recent years including U.S. Reps. John Dingell, D-Dearborn; Dale Kildee, D-Flint; Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township; Dave Camp, R-Midland, and Mike Rogers, R-Howell.
Levin's son, Andy, has been rumored to be a potential successor, as has state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, who is well-known in the district, which includes parts of eastern Oakland County and southern Macomb County.
“I guess you can read the tea leaves: Carl retires, his chief of staff leaves, he doesn’t have a birthday fundraiser. He’s had such an incredible length of public service," said Bieda. "Certainly I love the (state) Legislature and love the communities I represent and I have a lot of ties to the Oakland County portion of that district. I would certainly look at that (if Levin retires). It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity."
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