U.S. Rep. John Dingell denies he called his Republican opponent Cynthia Kallgren ignorant
U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, was taken to task by his Republican opponent on Wednesday for remarks he made in an interview earlier this year.
"I never thought ignorance or inexperience was a qualification for running for office," Dingell was quoted as saying in a Dearborn Patch article on July 3.
The article noted that Dingell was speaking generally about candidates who tout their lack of political backgrounds as an asset when running for office.
Cynthia Kallgren let the 29-term congressman know she hasn't forgotten those remarks and she takes them personally.
"My opponent for the 12th Congressional District has called me ignorant, inexperienced and unfit," she said in her opening remarks at a candidate forum in Ann Arbor. "If ignorant describes my lack of bureaucratic buy-in to crooked and crony Washington ways, I prefer to be ignorant."
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
At the time the story ran in July, Dingell was competing in the Democratic primary against 25-year-old University of Michigan student Daniel Marcin.
Following the August primary, Kallgren, a Republican from Trenton, emerged as Dingell's opponent for the Nov. 6 general election.
Dingell denied he was referring to Kallgren or any specific opponent of his when he gave the quote about ignorance and inexperience to the Dearborn Patch.
"My opponent is entitled to her own opinion, but she's not entitled to her own facts," he said. "I never said that she was ignorant, unqualified or incapable of serving. I don't comment on my opponents."
Kallgren responded to that.
"If you read the article in which you are quoted in the Dearborn Patch —," she said before being cut off by Dingell, who interjected: "I was not quoted that way."
"Go back to the article and read it," Kallgren fired back.
"I will be glad to do it, and I will be glad to have you read it," Dingell answered.
Dingell and Kallgren continued to disagree on issues ranging from health care to the federal budget deficit and the national debt. They shared the stage with several other candidates for local office.
"You need to know it is time for you to retire and make room for a return to Michigan prosperity under new management, under new ideas," Kallgren told Dingell. "It's time for Michigan to hear a congresswoman's voice who has created jobs while I built my own business."
Kallgren repeatedly touted her experience as a small business owner. Asked to clarify which business she owns, she said she was a home-based consultant for a company called Creative Memories.
"It is helping people tell their life story with scrapbooks, digital photo albums to organize their photos," she said. "I was nationally recognized for sales, as well as recruiting."
Dingell, who has been in office since 1955, touted his experience in Congress. He said his primary interests remain growing jobs and the economy.
"I was one of the leaders in saving the auto industry," Dingell said. "It has been one of my major functions inside the Congress to move to see to it that jobs in Michigan are protected."
He also said he fought for the passage of the 2009 federal stimulus package, which pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy. The $18 billion that went to Michigan, he said, was crucial in helping maintain basic services like police and fire during the recession.
"I am particularly pleased in my efforts to preserve our natural resources," he added. "I have seen to it that we've begun the cleanup of the Rouge, the Huron and the other rivers that flow in our area."
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Kallgren isn't as keen on the law. She called it "the Obamacare tax."
"I would not want the government to take over our insurance companies, because I feel we would sacrifice the quality of care," she said. "If you get the government involved, you will not be able to care for your parents, your spouse, your children in the way that you want."
Dingell argued the law does more to help insurance companies and help people access health care than it does to interfere.
"This is an excellent program," he said. "It provides a mechanism to avoid the collapse of our insurance and our health care system, because the costs are going up at twice the rate of any other country in the world and it is impossible now for most small businesses to afford it."
Many of the major provisions of the law take effect in 2014. Dingell said it will set up exchanges under which insurance companies will offer a wide selection of health insurance products.
"We're not taking over the insurance industry," he said. "We're providing them with 47 million more people who will be buying insurance and this is the reason they're supporting it. You're going to find that small business is going to receive significant subsidy."
Everyday citizens will benefit greatly, too, Dingell said.
"Every American will, for the first time, have an opportunity for health care," he said. "No longer will you be denied health care because you have a pre-existing condition, and no longer can you be kicked off an insurance policy because you got sick. These are major changes."
Since she believes Obamacare is not the answer, Kallgren was asked to say how she would address the nation's health care crisis.
"I believe that if we allow insurance companies to be bought across state lines, if we create competition in insurance companies, we will lower the cost of health care," she said.
Kallgren said her platform is short and simple.
"I am pro-business and pro-life," she said. "Everyone wants more jobs. And of course, if elected, all politicians promise more jobs, but government does not create jobs. Business creates jobs. My platform promotes new businesses and expansion of business."
Criticizing "excessive regulations," "excessive taxes" and "massive debt to every American," Kallgren concluded that "government needs to get out of the way of business."
Asked to explain how they plan to address the federal deficit, Dingell said he has no hopes of solving the problem overnight, but he'll continue to work on creating jobs and opportunities for people to grow the income of the nation, while also looking at targeted spending cuts.
"We're going to have to address the problem of expenditures and that means there will be some savage cuts made," he said. "And that will include everything, including defense."
Dingell said it's important to keep making investments so the United States can "out-educate" and "out-innovate" the rest of the world.
Kallgren pointed out the national debt is now about $16 trillion. The federal budget deficit is closer to $1 trillion. She criticized Dingell for not doing enough to tackle the problem.
"After 57 years, this is not a priority to him," she said. "But as a mother of four children, I can tell you it's a priority to me."
Kallgren said it's immoral to pass a large debt on to future generations. She said Dingell will be gone by the time "the blank hits the fan," but her kids will be stuck living in a nation in debt.
Kallgren didn't say exactly where she would make cuts to balance the federal budget, except that she'd get the job done.
Dingell argued the nation's debt grew significantly under Republican presidents while Bill Clinton, a Democrat, left the nation with a $2 trillion surplus when he was in office.
"When Jimmy Carter was president, he left with a $750 billion national debt," Dingell said. "When his successor, Ronald Reagan, left, he left with a national debt of about $2 trillion.
"If you look at what Mr. George W. Bush left us, he left this nation with two wars fought on the credit card and a national debt which amount to about $11 or $12 trillion," he said. "The result is that we have to now get these messes in hand, and they cannot be done overnight."
Dingell said he doesn't like it when Republicans blame the Democrats for the nation's financial problems because the Republicans have contributed to the problems significantly. He said President Barack Obama is working to reduce the federal deficit but the GOP has been hostile.
"The president has got a proposal and a program to move these things forward, but the interesting thing is the Republicans around the Congress this time have only passed 60 bills through the House of Representatives, not a single one of which related to appropriations or budget," he said. "They would rather sit in the dark and curse the darkness than to light one small candle."
Dingell and Kallgren are running in the new 12th Congressional District, which stretches from Wayne County into Washtenaw, covering Downriver, Dearborn, Belleville, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.