The voters of Flint first sent Dale Kildee to Congress in the year our nation celebrated its bicentennial. He was in his mid-forties then.
Next year, he’ll turn eighty-three, and as last weekend started, he announced next year would be his last in Congress. He’s had a long and honorable career, in politics and beforehand.
Kildee started adult life as a high school teacher who had almost become a priest as a boy, and who, after ten years in the classroom, had gotten himself elected to the state legislature.
He spent a dozen years there, running shoe-leather campaigns during which someone calculated he had to have knocked on every door in Flint. When the seat in Congress opened up in 1976, he jumped into the primary, and won it and the general election easily.
Years ago, I heard Kildee say that he was embarrassed that he wound up spending more on that first campaign than he wanted to.
How much was that? $48,000. In case you need reminding about how much things have changed, a Democratic candidate in another Michigan district spent $8 million trying to get elected last year, and by the way, he lost.
Kildee never lost an election. After that first election, the voters sent him back to Congress seventeen more times.