Yeah, I’m late to the party on this.
Bone-tired and facing a tough political landscape at home, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey announced Wednesday that he won’t seek re-election, ending a 41-year House career stamped by his unique talent and tempestuousness.
Rarely does a committee chairman of such power just walk away, and Obey’s decision is both a blow to Democrats and marks the passing of one of the last major leaders of the 1970’s reforms that reshaped the modern House.
“I am ready to turn the page, and frankly, I think that my district is ready for someone new to make a fresh start,” Obey said in an afternoon press conference in his committee’s meeting room.
Despite poor polls at home, he insisted that could win re-election in November but admitted he feared another reapportionment fight in the next Congress and a shift in the public mood against the aggressive public investments which have been his trademark.
“I do not want to be the position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task,” Obey said, “And given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed.”
The chairman’s retirement is not entirely a surprise, but as of late Tuesday night, Obey’s staff had insisted he was running aggressively and had hired campaign staff. Only Wednesday morning did a person close to him confirm to POLITICO that he was leaving, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was only informed then as well.
Let’s state the obvious here: This is huge news in Wisconsin, no matter what your political alignment. Obey was a fixture (an angry, firebrand of a fixture) for over forty years and it will feel odd with him not being there. It is odder still that he’s retiring, just like that. A part of me always felt the only way David Obey was leaving Congress was in a pine box.
Let’s go over the basics of this new paradigm in Wisconsin politics shall we.
1) Mike Tate, please go change your pants. No one will blame you if you need to.
Makes you wonder if the wunderkind best known for false robo-calls to the elderly was expecting both Doyle and Obey to step aside in 2010 when he was anointed last summer.
2) Duffy Campaign take the victory lap, you’ve earned it.
I honestly grew to believe as this campaign between Duffy was gearing up, that Obey had forgotten how to campaign over the years. Then add in the new modern environment of campaigns with websites, blogs, social networking, and the like and you wonder how he was going to handle it all. My friend Patrick Ruffini (a Duffy campaign consultant for his website and new media) told me at CPAC that the Obey campaign had finally set up its first campaign website in January and that prior to this cycle, Obey had never felt the need to put one up.
That fact alone, if true from what Ruffini told me, was itself telling.
3) If you know who the Democrats are going to run in Obey’s stead, please call me.
Going through the number of Democrats in the 7th, I look at who not only could run, but could win. Logically, since he’s coveted the seat for years, State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Schofield) would make sense…if it weren’t this year. Now he’s got baggage from this past legislative session — $5 Billion in new taxes for starters — that would give off a stink and it will effect not only him, but all legislators from Northern Wisconsin as well.
My early guess of who runs? A mayor or village president from the district.
One does wonder if they’ll be a primary up there …
Democrats in the 7th — hell the entire state — are dealing with the loss of their Godfather. It’s going to be odd to see once the grieving process is over.
4) Kagen Must Really Be Scared Now.
Admittedly, this demand by Marc Savard for Kagen to follow Obey’s lead and resign from Congress is about the dumbest thing I’ve read today, but the adding on from a number of 8th Congressional campaigns (WisPolitics links to press releases by Trager and Ribble) is just a reminder to Kagen that it’s going to be a tough year for Democrats on the Congressional level.
When you have Dave Obey bailing on re-election, what does it say about Kagen’s chances?
5) Duffy’s the Front-Runner.
That’s pretty much assumed at this moment by everyone, and it will be interesting to see what the various political handicappers (Cook, CQ, Rothenberg) now list WI-07 by the end of the week. For now, Duffy has the cash, the name exposure, the good mojo, a new baby, and the Democrats are searching for a candidate or two to raise money for.
Not a bad month.