Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1982, 17th term.

Born: September 6, 1931, Detroit, MI

Home: Royal Oak, MI

Education: U. of Chicago, B.A. 1952, Columbia U., M.A. 1954, Harvard U., LL.B. 1957

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1957–64, 1970–76; Fellow, Harvard JFK Schl. of Govt., 1975; A.A., Agency for Intl. Devel., 1977–81.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Jewish

Family: Married (Vicki (deceased) Pamela Cole) , 4 children

Sander Levin, first elected in 1982, is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, having briefly served as its chairman before Republicans gained the majority in 2011. Like his younger brother, retired Sen. Carl Levin, he is an old-school liberal and one of his party’s most respected voices on trade matters. Former Ways and Means member Jim McCrery, R-La., described him as "a Democrat's Democrat—he defends Democratic positions with vigor and substance."

Sander Levin grew up in Detroit and got degrees from the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. In college, Levin sat at the lunch counter in protest with black students and they were denied service together. He then later studied village democracy in India. "I was essentially trained by World War II vets who combined a progressive view of life with a deep distrust of anything authoritarian," he told National Journal.

He settled in the suburb of Berkley after school and was elected state senator in 1964. In 1970 and 1974, he ran for governor and lost narrowly each time to Republican William Milliken. During the Carter administration, he was a top appointee at the Agency for International Development.

In 1982, a House seat suddenly opened up after redistricting when two incumbents retired. Levin won a spirited primary and has held the seat without difficulty. The 1992 redistricting moved him east, into Macomb County, and placed him in the same district with Democrat Dennis Hertel, who decided to retire. Levin had serious competition in the next two elections from retired Army Col. John Pappageorge and won by just 53%-46% in 1992 and 52%-47% in 1994. Since then, he has won easily.

Levin is a hard worker and a details man, willing to spend endless hours with others working out solutions. In a less polarized era, he likely would have an extremely close relationship with Republicans. He got into a tense exchange with fellow Michigander Dave Camp, then Ways and Means chairman at a December 2011 Rules Committee meeting, arguing over whether the 2009 economic stimulus law had reduced unemployment. “Your policies certainly haven’t worked very well,” said Camp, prompting the normally even-keeled Levin to retort, “Let’s not argue about the policies, because I think you’re wrong!”

In earlier years, Levin played an important role on significant issues. On welfare reform, Levin had a role in shaping the 1996 overhaul of the welfare program that introduced more work requirements. In 2005, as the ranking Democrat on the Social Security Subcommittee, his outspoken opposition to personal retirement accounts in Social Security put Republicans on the defensive and helped stop the proposal. "He led us in the winning strategy, which was an inside-outside strategy, that we would mobilize people around the country, and two, that we would not offer an alternative—that was absolutely key," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, a fellow liberal.

For years, he has been at the center of trade debates, seeking ways, as he has put it, to shape globalization. He favored the 1980s free trade agreement with Canada, which helped the auto industry. He was a strong opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 but supported normal trade relations with China, playing an instrumental role in crafting details with the Clinton administration. With many union leaders, Levin has pushed for trade agreements to contain provisions on workers’ rights, fair ways of settling workers’ disagreements and environmental protection. He got the Bush administration to make changes in labor, and environmental protections in the Peru free trade agreement, which was then approved. He also insisted on changes in the agreements negotiated with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

In March 2011, Levin defended the Obama administration’s insistence on taking more time to complete deals with Colombia and Panama, while simultaneously seeking quick congressional approval of a newly negotiated agreement with South Korea. “The old conventional wisdom about trade policy is outdated, and there is a new model, exemplified by changes to the Peru and (South) Korea agreements, waiting to be seized,” he said in a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Seven months later, the House passed all three agreements, with Levin refusing to support the Colombia pact because he said that country’s government had not met its labor rights obligations.

During the years of the Democratic House majority (2007-2010), Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel tended to defer to Levin as support for free trade pacts in the Democratic Caucus declined dramatically. Levin has pressed hard for China to allow its currency to rise in value and introduced a bill to authorize the Commerce Department to decide whether an undervalued currency is an export subsidy; it passed the House 348-79 in September 2010. On the House Democrats’ cap-and-trade energy bill to reduce carbon emissions, Levin reached agreement with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman on requiring taxes in 2020 on China, India, and other developing countries if they failed to similarly curb carbon emissions, but the bill ultimately died in the Senate. He also worked with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., on multiple issues in a 2010 tax bill to extend unemployment benefits, boost oil company payments for oil spills, and create a tax credit for electric vehicle technology development.

While Democrats were still in power, Levin got the gavel at Ways and Means after Rangel became mired in an ethics scandal. In March 2010, Rangel, facing charges he had failed to pay taxes, resigned the chairmanship. For a day, the leadership installed the next most senior Democrat, Pete Stark of California, to the post. But prominent Democrats privately expressed concerns about the flamboyant Stark, given his propensity for controversial remarks. Moreover, Stark had voted no on the cap-and-trade bill and so was not in favor with Democratic leaders. Next in line in seniority after Stark was the level-headed Levin, who was deemed an acceptable replacement. But he managed to rankle Republicans during his brief tenure. "You can just kind of keep your mouth shut because everyone knows what your style was, and it wasn't an inclusive style," said Ohio Republican Pat Tiberi, referring to Levin. "It wasn't a bipartisan style. It was very dictatorial."

After the 2010 election, Levin was challenged for the ranking minority position by Richard Neal of Massachusetts. The Democratic Steering Committee voted 23-22 for Neal. Levin, having paid some dues by giving $570,000 to other Democrats during the election season, took his case to the full Democratic Caucus and prevailed over Neal on a 109-78 vote.

Redistricting in 2012 initially was thought to pose a problem for Levin. He ended up in the same district as Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, but Peters decided to avoid a primary fight and ran in the 14th District. Levin had little trouble dispatching Republican Don Volaric, whom he had beaten two years earlier. The win came three months after Levin, whose wife Vicki died in 2008 after 50 years of marriage, was remarried to Pamela Cole, a Penn State psychology professor. He told Michigan Radio in January 2013 that, even in the minority at 81, he felt energized. “Do I have fire in my belly? In a sense, more than ever,” he said. He won in 2014 with 60%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4961

(202) 226-1033

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1236
Washington, DC 20515-2209

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4961

(202) 226-1033

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1236
Washington, DC 20515-2209

DISTRICT OFFICE

(586) 498-7122

(586) 498-7123

27085 Gratiot Avenue Suite C
Roseville, MI 48066-2947

DISTRICT OFFICE

(586) 498-7122

(586) 498-7123

27085 Gratiot Avenue Suite C
Roseville, MI 48066-2947

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(586) 274-2001

(586) 274-2002

PO Box 37
Roseville, MI 48066

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 37
Roseville, MI 48066

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Agriculture

Rose Luttenberger
Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Rose Luttenberger
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Campaign

Hilarie Chambers
Chief of Staff

Education

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Foreign

Eden Forsythe
Legislative Counsel; Foreign Policy Advisor

Govt Ops

Zeenath Hussain
Constituent Service; Community Liaison

Amanda York
Constituent Service; Community Liaison

Grants

Amanda York
Constituent Service; Community Liaison

Health

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Homeland Security

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Immigration

Eden Forsythe
Legislative Counsel; Foreign Policy Advisor

Judiciary

Eden Forsythe
Legislative Counsel; Foreign Policy Advisor

Labor

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Medicare

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Military

Eden Forsythe
Legislative Counsel; Foreign Policy Advisor

Seniors

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Social Security

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Telecommunications

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Trade

Hilarie Chambers
Chief of Staff

Transportation

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Veterans

Emily Del Morone
Senior Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary

Welfare

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Women

Grant Barbosa
Legislative Assistant, Health and Human Resources

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Sander Levin
Votes: 208,846
Percent: 61.91%
Don Volaric
Votes: 114,760
Percent: 34.02%
2012 PRIMARY
Sander Levin
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Sander Levin
Votes: 124,671
Percent: 61.08%
Don Volaric
Votes: 71,372
Percent: 34.97%
2010 PRIMARY
Sander Levin
Votes: 42,732
Percent: 76.02%
Michael Switalski
Votes: 13,480
Percent: 23.98%
2008 GENERAL
Sander Levin
Votes: 225,094
Percent: 72.07%
Bert Copple
Votes: 74,565
Percent: 23.87%
2008 PRIMARY
Sander Levin
Votes: 58,763
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (61%), 2008 (72%), 2006 (70%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (68%), 2000 (64%), 1998 (56%), 1996 (57%), 1994 (52%), 1992 (53%), 1990 (70%), 1988 (70%), 1986 (76%), 1984 (100%), 1982 (67%)

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