After 25 lifetime election wins and 41 years serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. David Obey announced Wednesday that his time on Capitol Hill will be over at the end of this year's session. The vacancy left by Obey, the House's third-most-senior member, will mark yet another political challenge to the Democrats as they face the upcoming midterm elections.
In a statement to the press, Obey said that although he was once the youngest member of the House when he first took office as a representative in 1969, at 71 years old, he's now "bone-tired" and is ready to move on. Only Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell and Democratic Rep. John Conyers have spent more years in the House than Obey, and as he leaves, he says that he hopes his district will elect "someone who will bring fresh eyes and fresh energy to the battle."
At times described as irascible and cantankerous, the stalwart Democrat, who has overseen nearly $1 trillion a year in federal funds as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, voted along party lines 98 percent of the time during his tenure. Though he attributes the timing of his retirement to his age, the passage of the healthcare bill--a reform he'd been working towards his whole career--and the end of the Bush years, many speculate that the wave of anti-incumbent sentiment in the country, mixed with the seeming popularity of his would-be GOP opponent, Sean Duffy, may be the true reasons for his not wanting to run for re-election.
The GOP favorite to replace Obey in Wisconsin's 7th District, Duffy is a 38-year-old district attorney who was made famous originally for his appearance on the MTV series, The Real World: Boston, and has been a world-record-holder in "pole-climbing" in lumberjack competitions. Among potential candidates hoping to defend the Democratic seat in November are state Sens. Russ Decker, Jim Holperin, Pat Kreitlow, Julie Lassa; state Reps. Ann Hraychuck, Donna Siedel, and Amy Sue Vruwink; and others including Obey's District Director Doug Hill.
With Obey out of the running, Fox News blogger Chad Pegram says that the GOP has its sights set on other senior Democratic members with generally Republican-leaning constituencies to gain the majority come November: House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt from South Carolina, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton from Montana, West Virginia's Rep. Alan Mollohan, and Virginia's Rep. Rick Boucher.
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