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Dingell Backers Try to Smoke Out More Votes

Allies of Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) are urging their like-minded colleagues to stand up and be counted.

Democratic Reps. Bart Stupak (Mich.), Chet Edwards (Texas) and Bobby Rush (Ill.) — all whipping support for Dingell as he tries to beat back a surprise challenge for his gavel from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — wrote House Democrats today and asked those backing the current chairman to go public.

“We invite all Members to add their voices to the strong chorus of support for Chairman Dingell within our Democratic Caucus,” the lawmakers wrote.

Their missive quotes past praise for Dingell from Democratic power players, including President-elect Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

The letter highlights the different approaches the Dingell and Waxman camps are taking in the contest. The Waxman team has opted to wage a behind-the-scenes operation, declining to reveal its supporters or even the makeup of its whip team.

The Dingell camp, on the other hand, is making its fight in public. Last week, after anonymous Waxman allies claimed to have the race wrapped up, three lawmakers backing the 27-term Dingell arranged a media conference call to throw cold water on the assertion. And Dingell’s camp last week rolled out a 26-member whip team.

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