Stunner: Obey retiring

posted at 12:55 pm on May 5, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In what may be the biggest sign of Democratic despair in this midterm cycle, House Appropriations Chair David Obey has decided not seek re-election.  In his district, that means that Sean Duffy’s chances for winning the election have markedly increased.  For Democrats nationwide, it may be a harbinger of a devastating midterm cycle:

In a major blow to Democrats, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey has told close associates that he will not seek re-election and an announcement of his plans is expected as early as Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Democrat faces tough poll numbers at home, but until Tuesday night his staff had insisted he was running aggressively and had hired campaign staff. But a person close to him confirmed the decision to POLITICO Wednesday and said Obey was preparing to make a statement. …

Obey’s frustration with the White House has been no secret either, and his unhappiness helps explain the repeated delays in the House over moving ahead with new funding for the war in Afghanistan. He himself is torn about the President Barack Obama’s commitment of increased U.S. troops at a time of continued economic troubles at home. And after first setting a Memorial Day deadline, Democrats admit privately that Congress may not complete action on the package until the July Fourth recess.

The combination of his retirement—and Murtha’s death—means a major change in the hierarchy of the Appropriations panel itself. And if Democrats retain power, Rep. Norman Dicks (D—Wash) will be pushed to the forefront after serving until recently as chairman of the Interior and natural resources subcommittee, overseeing one of the smaller of the dozen annual bills.

When committee chairs retire, it usually means they don’t expect to remain committee chairs for very much longer.  When an Appropriations Committee chair retires — a position considered one of the pinnacles of Congressional power — then that goes double.  Obey had an iron grip on power and wielded it to great effect, except on the issue of Afghanistan.  On that issue, Barack Obama circumvented Obey’s power of the purse by allying with Republicans and moderate Democrats for war funding.

That wouldn’t have pushed Obey into retirement alone, though.  Expect to hear about family obligations or health issues in his announcement later today, but Obey had already begun fighting a hard campaign against Duffy.  Until now, no one expected Duffy to oppose anyone else but Obey.

Speaking of which, who will Duffy face now?  Whoever jumps into this race will have significant disadvantages on fundraising, organization, and name recognition.  They also will have the albatross of the unpopular Democratic agenda around their neck.  While Duffy had an uphill battle to unseat a powerful incumbent, he may now have to guard against overoptimism.


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oops, I meant gavel.

ctmom on May 5, 2010 at 4:36 PM

I grew up in the 8th CD (Appleton). I can’t believe that someone as far left as Kagen is actually representing that district. Any good opponents?

Mr. D on May 5, 2010 at 4:03 PM

I suggest asking Kevin Binversie – that’s his neck of the woods. Right now, there’s a heap of people in the primary.

steveegg on May 5, 2010 at 4:50 PM

I grew up in the 8th CD (Appleton). I can’t believe that someone as far left as Kagen is actually representing that district. Any good opponents?

Mr. D on May 5, 2010 at 4:03 PM

there are about 8 competing to unseat him. In previous races, he only had one (John Gard ran uncontested in primaries I believe). I voted for Gard both times. Kagen ran against Bush both times he won, and I think that’s the only reason he won in this historically Republican district.

I’m from Chicago originally, so I’m used to my conservative vote not counting. I’ve lived in this district four years and am looking forward to it turning red again. The fact that 8 different people are vying for the Republican nomination this time suggests a conservative momentum. Of those 8, I’m most impressed with Reid Ribble, a former Kaukauna roofing contractor, and Roger Roth (current state congressman). Either of them would be better than Kagen. We can only hope. My dog would be better than Kagen. The Republican primary will be Sept. 14th.

kscheuller on May 5, 2010 at 5:09 PM

I hope when he retires he will move out of state!

Somewhere maybe like AZ, on the border maybe…

WhoU4 on May 5, 2010 at 5:18 PM

SSSSssseeee Yaaaa!!!!

Saltysam on May 5, 2010 at 5:56 PM

To Rep Obey,

And a hell of a legacy you’ve left, a Bankrupt Nation.

May your Grandchildren burn you in effigy.

Jimmy Doolittle on May 5, 2010 at 6:20 PM

Good Bye Obey.
Can you take Moore,Baldwin,Kagan and Kind with you?

Gracelynn on May 5, 2010 at 6:25 PM

I was born in NW Wisconsin in the early 70′s. That dope’s been the congressman for that district since 1969. Good Riddance. By the way, Duffy’s wife was on The Real World in the early 90′s. I probably shouldn’t admit that I used to watch the real world a long time ago. Oh well, we all do stupid stuff when we’re young.

the_stoics on May 5, 2010 at 7:34 PM

I heard th enews about Obey while driving home from work tonight and it reminded me of that Dean Wormer line:

“fat, pompous and liberal is no way to go through life son…”

Red State State of Mind on May 5, 2010 at 7:59 PM

there are about 8 competing to unseat him. In previous races, he only had one (John Gard ran uncontested in primaries I believe). I voted for Gard both times. Kagen ran against Bush both times he won, and I think that’s the only reason he won in this historically Republican district.

I’m from Chicago originally, so I’m used to my conservative vote not counting. I’ve lived in this district four years and am looking forward to it turning red again. The fact that 8 different people are vying for the Republican nomination this time suggests a conservative momentum. Of those 8, I’m most impressed with Reid Ribble, a former Kaukauna roofing contractor, and Roger Roth (current state congressman). Either of them would be better than Kagen. We can only hope. My dog would be better than Kagen. The Republican primary will be Sept. 14th.

kscheuller on May 5, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Gard was unopposed in the 2008 primary. In the 2006 primary, he crushed Terri McCormick (with the blessing of the state GOP and, if memory serves, the NRCC).

steveegg on May 5, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Gard was unopposed in the 2008 primary. In the 2006 primary, he crushed Terri McCormick (with the blessing of the state GOP and, if memory serves, the NRCC).

steveegg on May 5, 2010 at 8:40 PM

thanks for the correction, Steve. McCormick is running this time around too. Hopefully some good competition among Republicans will yield a candidate that will beat Kagen

kscheuller on May 5, 2010 at 9:05 PM

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