Washington — Longtime Rep. Sandy Levin has delayed announcing whether he’ll run for another term in Congress, fueling speculation that the 86-year-old Royal Oak Democrat might retire.
Asked recently by The Detroit News whether he’ll seek re-election, Levin did not answer directly.
“I’m spending all my time right now on these issues,” such as tax reform, negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement and stabilizing the health insurance markets, said Levin, who has served in Congress since 1983.
“We’re working, the staff and I, kind of around the clock. So that’s my total focus.”
That focus has perhaps affected Levin’s fundraising efforts, judging by his receipts of $17,000 in the last reporting period and a total of $101,931 for the year.
A spokeswoman said Levin’s reported cash on hand of $189,462 – some carried over from his 2016 campaign – is “very close” to the $209,000 he had in the bank at this time during the last election cycle.
“He feels very confident he can wage a successful campaign,” spokeswoman Emily DelMorone said.
“With the election of President Trump, the congressman has been focused on actively combatting many of Trump’s most damaging policies, including those on health care, taxes and immigration, rather than on campaign-related issues.”
Joe DiSano, a Democratic consultant in Lansing, said Levin might be considering retirement, and his relatively low fundraising haul “certainly indicates a winding down.”
“I think he has earned the right to do it on his own timetable. If he leaves it’s not because he isn’t doing a top notch job,” DiSano said.
“No one has ever said Sander Levin wasn’t a effective member of Congress. And no one serious ever will. If Sander Levin wants to retire it’s not because anyone could push him out. It’s because he feels it’s time to go.”
Levin, an attorney, was the ranking Democrat on the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee until he stepped down a year ago amid discord in the ranks of House Democrats. He now is the panel’s ranking member on the Subcommittee on Health.
Levin said last fall that it was “imperative” to support younger members of Congress as they take on greater leadership roles during the Trump administration, and he wanted to be free to focus, in addition to tax reform, on his legislative passions of health care and trade.
Levin was elected to the Michigan Senate in 1964, later becoming Senate minority leader. He unsuccessfully ran for governor as the Democratic nominee in 1970 and 1974.
He then worked as an assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development for four years before his election to the U.S. House.
Levin hasn’t been absent from the fundraising scene this year. His leadership political action committee, GOAL PAC, raised $27,500 in the first half of the year and reported $24,160 on hand as of June 30.
Levin hosted a fundraiser for GOAL PAC in June at an Italian restaurant in Washington, according to an invitation obtained by The News.
The 9th District, which includes parts of Oakland and Macomb counties, is considered a safe Democratic seat. Levin won re-election in 2016 over his GOP opponent with 58 percent of the vote, a margin of more than 20 percentage points.
State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, said he’d be interested in running for the congressional seat if it opens up, but he noted he’s heard rumors about a potential Levin retirement since the district boundaries shifted toward Macomb in 1992.
“He’s been great to work with,” Bieda said, praising the veteran lawmaker. “I wouldn’t be lying if I said that if that opportunity presents itself I’d take a very hard look at it, but I don’t want to be disrespectful to him at all.”
Bieda, an attorney who is serving his second and final term in the state Senate, is also considering a run for the Democratic nomination for Michigan attorney general. He said Levin has plenty of time to position himself for re-election if he chooses to run again.
“He’s a guy with the length of service he has and connections he has, that if he needed to raise a lot of money, he could do it pretty fast,” Bieda said.
Among the other potential successors to Levin is his son, Andy Levin, who lives in Bloomfield Township and is reportedly mulling a run for governor.
Two years ago, Andy Levin prompted rumors of a potential run for Congress in 2015 when he walked in two Fourth of July parades with his father.
The congressman was known for walking in holiday parades with his younger brother, retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, until Carl retired in 2014.
At the time, Andy Levin refuted the rumor mill, saying he was supportive of his father’s work and had been going to parades with his dad since 1964 when he was 4.
The Harvard-trained attorney is managing partner of Levin Energy Partners LLC and has long worked in public policy, previously serving as acting director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth and as the state’s chief workforce officer during the Granholm administration.
Andy Levin ran for public office in 2006 when he lost to former state Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, by 776 votes in the state Senate’s 13th District. Some political analysts blamed Levin’s loss on the siphoning of support by Green Party candidate Kyle McBee, who got more than 3,100 votes.
Andy Levin could not be reached for comment Monday.
Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed