House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, 71, today announced he would not seek reelection after more than 20 terms in office. The Wisconsin Democrat’s departure is the latest example of veteran Democrats deciding to withdraw rather than face tough reelections — a troubling sign for House speaker Nancy Pelosi for whom retention of the House grows more difficult with each retirement. Obey had raised nearly $1.4 million for his reelection and his bowing out now comes as a surprise. He had been facing one of the toughest races of his career against Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, who has raised more than $500,000 .
“There is a time to stay and a time to go. And this is my time to go,” Obey told reporters on Capitol Hill today.
Republicans jumped on Obey’s retirement. “There is no question that David Obey was facing the race of his life and that is why it is understandable that the architect of President Obama’s failed stimulus plan has decided to call it quits,’ said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the Republican campaign committee. “It is ironic that a congressman who became infamously known for his short temper and angry tirades on the House floor, is going out with such a whimper.”
Dems, predictably, said they are confident they’ll hold the seat. “Chairman Obey would have won re-election again had he run,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic campaign committee. “We are confident that a Democrat who shares Chairman Obey’s commitment to making progress for Wisconsin’s middle class families will succeed him as the next Representative of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.” Democratic sources said Obey’s retirement isn’t a surprise and his district has a deep bench of Democratic candidates.
The Appropriations gavel will now fall to Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington who only just recently inherited the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee after Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha passed away. Dicks will likely keep that post in addition to chairing the full committee.