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Old 08-26-2007, 12:34 AM   #1
Janett_Reno
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Default After Loss of Majority, Several Republicans Head for Exits

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/18/us...gewanted=print

A rash of retirements among House Republicans is adding to the party’s electoral challenges and raising questions about a rush for the exits.

Four House Republicans — Representatives J. Dennis Hastert and Ray LaHood, both of Illinois; Deborah Pryce of Ohio; and Charles W. Pickering Jr. of Mississippi — have all announced in recent days that they will not seek re-election next year, worrying Republican leaders anxious to hold back a potential wave of retirements after the loss of their majority in 2006. Mr. Hastert, the former speaker, Mr. LaHood and Ms. Pryce were all well-liked leaders within their party.

“I think our party’s chances for winning the majority back next time are pretty bleak at the moment,” Mr. LaHood said in an interview, “and I will admit to you that being in the minority is less fun.”

“People are going to continue to have heartburn over the war,” he said. “Democrats will win the White House, hold their majority in the House and in the Senate in 2008, and then in 2010 we will have an extraordinary opportunity in the off-year of a Democratic presidency and Congressional majorities to possibly win it back. But it is not going to happen the next time,” in 2008.

Julie Shutley, a spokeswoman for the House Republican campaign committee, called the retirements “normal and to be expected.” Ms. Shutley said that in each of the last three elections about 30 lawmakers, including members of both parties, had chosen to retire. Predictions of mass Democratic retirements after the Republicans took over in 1994 “never materialized,” she said.

That may depend on one’s perspective. Forty-nine House members did not seek re-election in 1996, and 28 were Democrats — 28 being nearly double the usual number.

Republicans gained 10 of those 28 seats, and that was in a year when President Bill Clinton won re-election at the top of the ticket and Democrats gained seats over all.

“2008 is likely to be a tougher year for Republicans than 1996 was for Democrats,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the Cook Political Report, a newsletter.

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee, argued that the retirements would contribute to a “psychology” of demoralization among Republicans.

“If the past is prologue here, we can expect to see a lot more than the average number of retirements after an election,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “And every vacancy creates opportunities.”

Capitalizing on their new majorities and sunny prospects, House and Senate Democrats have trounced the Republicans in fund-raising during the first half of the year. The House Democratic campaign committee reported $19.5 million in cash and $4.1 million in debt at the end of June, compared with $2 million on hand and $4.3 million in debt at the House Republican committee.

The Senate Democratic campaign committee had $20.3 million in cash and $4.5 million in debt, compared with $5.8 million on hand with no debts at the Republican Senate committee.

Senate Republicans may face a special challenge because they have so many seats to defend. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election next year, about two-thirds are occupied by Republicans. That means 22 of 49 Republican senators will be running.

Senator Wayne Allard, Republican of Colorado, has already announced plans not to seek re-election, setting the stage for a competitive race to succeed him. A handful of other Republicans, including Senator John W. Warner of Virginia and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, are said to be weighing retirement. Neither Mr. Warner nor Mr. Hagel have publicly committed to seek re-election.

All the House Republicans who are not seeking re-election said they made their decisions for personal reasons.

“It is just time,” Ms. Pryce said. “Five years ago I adopted a little baby, and she is starting kindergarten and I am all she has and we need to be together, and it is just not an option to move her to Washington, so that is why.”

Ms. Pryce’s district, around Columbus, Ohio, is considered a national bellwether: It is a swing district in a swing state. Of the four announced retirements, it is the Democrats’ best hope to pick up a seat. In 2006, Ms. Pryce, then a member of the House Republican leadership, squeaked out a victory over her Democratic challenger, Mary Jo Kilroy, who is running again in 2008.

“It was an ugly race, it was a brutal race, but Republicans held the seat, and that was when all the stars to the very last one lined up against Republicans,” Ms. Pryce said, arguing that a new Republican candidate could win again.

Asked if 2008, a presidential election year, might be even tougher for her party with troops still in Iraq, she said, “I didn’t think it would ever be any worse — that is what we said then — so who knows?”

The Illinois districts of Mr. Hastert and Mr. LaHood lean Republican, but Mr. Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, said the party planned to mount stiff races in each.

“The Hastert seat is not guaranteed for the Republicans,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst. “All things being equal, they probably ought to hold it, but they have to run a good race.”

Mr. Pickering’s Mississippi district, however, is considered unassailably Republican. The California district of Representative Duncan Hunter, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination and not running again for the House, is also considered safe.

Two House Democrats are not seeking re-election: Tom Allen of Maine and Mark Udall of Colorado are running for the Senate. But their seats are considered safely Democratic.

Correction: August 21, 2007


An article on Saturday about Republican members of the House who have said they will not seek re-election next year misstated the decision of a House Democrat, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois. While he announced 18 months ago that he would not seek re-election, he said Thursday that he had changed his mind and would seek a ninth term.
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Old 08-26-2007, 10:24 PM   #2
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Now if we could only get the Democrat Grand Keagle to retire we might have something going.
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:17 PM   #3
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