Sander Levin
Sander Levin

After 35 years of serving Michigan in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, announced Sunday he will not seek re-election in 2018 and will instead join the faculty of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan at the conclusion of his term.

In a statement released on Sunday that was published in local and national media, Levin, 86, said it was the honor of a lifetime to serve Michigan in Washington, D.C., where he thanked his constituents for enabling him to address and champion issues such as comprehensive healthcare, trade, promoting civil and human rights, and saving and strengthening Social Security and Medicare.

Regarding his joining the academic world after his 35-year tenure in Congress, Levin wrote on his hopes to re-establish trust in the institutions of this country’s democracy.

“I hope to help renew public trust in public institutions, which is all the more important given the perils of the Trump presidency,” he wrote. “And I want to connect directly with our next generation of leaders.”

According to the Associated Press, the 86-year-old Levin has sat on the House Ways and Means Committee for almost 30 years. He was the top Democrat on the panel from 2010 through 2016 and was chairman during passage of the federal healthcare law and was also a vocal proponent for a government bailout for the automotive industry.

Saving the automotive industry, as well as expanding access to healthcare and unemployment insurance to the health of the Great Lakes, is proof that Levin makes the people of Michigan his top priority every day he serves, said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in a written statement.

“He has also been a wonderful partner and a true friend. It has been my honor to work alongside Sandy Levin on behalf of Michigan families,” she wrote.

Retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin commended his brother for his decades-long presence as the “voice of reason” in the House of Representatives, emphasizing his commitment to creating a feeling of community in his district. He said this stems from their parent’s strong rootedness in Jewish values — that they should be committed to the Jewish community but then “care for something bigger than yourself” — and these values shaped their decisions to serve in government and champion social issues.

“Sandy has been in the middle of the great [political] battles of our age and always fought for the average citizen, from advocating for universal health care to fair trade policies to saving the American auto industry,” Sen. Levin said. “At a time when there is so much cynicism, he has maintained his steadfast belief in the importance of public service. He will continue this service into his last year in office and will labor to modify the extreme position that has been taken by the Trump administration. Then, he will share his experiences to inspire the next generation of leaders at the University of Michigan.”

Jewish community officials from the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs to the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Congress praised Rep. Levin for his demonstrated passion and commitment to issues that affect Jews and the wider local community in the House of Representatives.

“Rep. Levin has been a loyal supporter of JAC’s issues: a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, reproductive freedom and the separation of religion and state. He embodies the principles of tikkun olam — repairing the world. JAC has been honored to call Rep. Levin our friend and we wish him well as he begins the next chapter of his life,” a statement read.

“Sandy has consistently supported a strong U.S-Israel relationship, and stood up on behalf of Jewish Americans and Jews around the world,” David Kurzmann, JCRC/AJC executive director said. “He has tirelessly defended the rights of American workers, fought to provide access to affordable healthcare and to maintain Medicare and Social Security. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his remarkable life.”

“He has been a role model in the kind of person you want to represent you at the state and local level.”

— Barry Lepler

At a private annual holiday party at his Royal Oak home on Sunday evening, Levin greeted guests from the different chapters of his life. Some were old neighbors from when his family lived in Berkley, others were staff members and others thanked Levin for giving them the start to their careers by interning in his local or Washington, D.C. offices.

One government official who got his political start this way in 1994 is Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner of Huntington Woods.

“Getting the chance to spend the summer in my local congressman’s office was a very formative experience for me,” Meisner said. “I was very inspired by Congressman Levin’s brilliance and insight into policy analysis. He has an incredible ability to get at the heart of a policy challenge. That intellectual firepower, I thought, was really special.

“I also found Congressman Levin to have incomparable integrity. There might be people who disagreed with him on issues, but there was never a Levin scandal; there was a never a question about Congressman Levin trying to benefit himself. His behavior in public office was always beyond reproach and provided a fantastic example for not only his colleagues but younger guys like me who were just getting into public service.”

Barry Lepler, 75, of Huntington Woods, a retired social studies teacher in the Berkley School District who taught some of Levin’s children and who worked on many Democratic campaigns, including Levin’s, said the soon-to-be retired congressman is the embodiment of what it means to be in public service.

“For Sandy, public service always came first,” Lepler said. “He cared deeply and understood completely the responsibility of what it means to serve the public and conducted himself with great integrity. He set an example for all those who worked with him, he served us fully in Washington and if you had a problem or an issue you wanted to take up with him, he and his staff were available and accessible both here in in the capital. He has been a role model in the kind of person you want to represent you at the state and national level.”

Andy Levin Plans To Run
Clean energy entrepreneur and former state official Andy Levin (D) announced that he will run for the Ninth Congressional District for Congress, hoping to win his father Sander Levin’s seat and pick up on his legacy of championing economic and social opportunities for the average American worker and promoting a community of inclusivity for Macomb and Oakland counties.

Levin is president and founder of Levin Energy Partners, which develops private-public partnerships for clean energy initiatives as well as president and founder of Lean and Green Michigan, a public/private initiative that helps finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Michigan.

He previously worked as a deputy in the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and was elevated to acting director in 2010 during the final months of the tenure of former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Levin also served as the state’s chief workforce officer and created the “No Worker Left Behind” initiative to train unemployed residents for new jobs in the Great Recession.

Upon his father’s announcing his retirement, Levin reflected upon the vast legacy of his father, describing him as a “general on the battlefield” championing the causes that are most dear to his constituents, such as the preservation of Medicare and Social Security and affordable healthcare.

He said in his remaining 13 months in office his father will continue fighting for the issues that have always been important to his constituents.

“Though he knows he will not see the world perfected to a just order, he is not discouraged,” Levin said. “There is an energy that has been unleashed after the election of Donald Trump, and in his remaining time in Congress, he will do battle for the issues he has always fought for as a general of old will do, with a sword drawn right there on the field. And afterwards, he is excited that he will spend the next chapter of his career with the next generation of leaders who can carry on his legacy to shape public policy.”

Levin said when it comes to the economy, his mission is to show that no matter where the political scale has slid in Macomb County — from “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s to once-Obama supporters that turned to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, a new movement of “bottom-up economics” has to take hold, because for 40 years, trickle-down economics has only caused a greater divide between America’s haves and have-nots.

“Louis Brandeis once said that a country can either have a democracy or great wealth in the hands of the few, but not both,” Levin said. “Trickle-down economics did not work under Reagan and the newly passed tax bill will only exacerbate the disparity of uneven wealth distribution. I am excited to lead a new generation of activists that will build an inclusive economy that leads to prosperity for Oakland and Macomb counties.”

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at