The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Debbie Dingell to run for House seat being vacated by John Dingell

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, left, and his wife Debbie hold hands during a legislative forum at the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber (SWCRC) at the Crystal Gardens in Southgate, Mich. on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Max Ortiz)

Democrat Debbie Dingell plans to run for the seat being vacated by her husband, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), two senior Democratic strategists on Capitol Hill familiar with her plans told Post Politics. She will begin her campaign as the clear front-runner to succeed her husband.

Debbie Dingell is an experienced Democratic strategist who currently serves as chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors. John Dingell has praised her as his closest confidant.

"She’s been my guide, my counsel, my friend and my closest adviser," he recently told the Detroit News.

Debbie Dingell, 60, is expected to make her announcement official by the end of the week.

The 12th district is based in Ann Arbor. It is safe Democratic territory, where President Obama won 66 percent of the vote in 2012.

John Dingell announced his retirement Tuesday. The longest-serving member of Congress in history, he has spent more than 58 years in the lower chamber, leaving a mark on numerous historic pieces of legislation.

An active congressional spouse, Debbie Dingell is often seen at the U.S. Capitol chatting with lawmakers and aides and was spotted attending the House Democratic policy retreat two weeks ago on Maryland's Eastern Shore alongside her husband. She also earned a prominent perch at the State of the Union Address last month, sitting in a front-row seat in the House gallery just a few spots over from first lady Michelle Obama and her invited guests.

In an interview Monday with The Washington Post, John Dingell described the unique relationship he shares with his wife and said he thought she would make a great member of Congress.

"We have a very peculiar, very special relationship," he said. "I want that woman to be happy. I want her to enjoy all the things that mean something to her. I want her to be able to do the things that she wants and if she wants to run for Congress, I want her to do that.

"To be very truthful with you, I think she would be one hell of a good congresswoman. I happen to have seen her. She’s able and decent and smart and tough as hell and she has everything that we need to have in a good congresswoman who would represent a blue-collar working district like this."

John Dingell's father held his seat before he followed in his footsteps. If Debbie Dingell wins and spends nine terms in office, a Dingell will have held the seat for 100 years.

Ed O'Keefe and Karen Tumulty contributed