Almost immediately after Rep. Bart Gordon became Tennessee’s second House Democrat in two weeks to announce his retirement, state and national GOP operatives began raising the possibility that Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) could be the next to head for the exit.
Tuesday evening, Davis sought to close the door on any speculation that he might retire or run for another office.
In 2010, he said, “Come hell or high water you can count me as a candidate— for Congress.
Retirement decisions tend to be announced at this point in the campaign cycle, and Republicans have been doing their best to pressure fence-sitters in the opposition to quit before the next fight.
Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) was mentioned as a potential retiree in a Washington Post story Tuesday, spurring his office to issue a statement saying the 10-term lawmaker is definitely running again. The Texas filing deadline is Jan. 4, and Edwards filed his re-election papers last week.
“As in years past, he will wage a vigorous and ultimately successful campaign in 2010,— Edwards spokeswoman Elizabeth Connor said in a written statement.
Democrats also said that other Members on a National Republican Congressional Committee wish list of Democratic retirements, including Reps. Ike Skelton (Mo.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Allen Boyd (Fla.), Rick Boucher (Va.), Jim Matheson (Utah) and Tim Holden (Pa.), have told party leaders they are running for re-election.
In a press release Tuesday morning, the NRCC sought to lay out the case for a Lincoln retirement.
Davis holds a district that went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race by an even greater margin than the districts of Gordon and Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), who announced his retirement on Dec. 1.
Davis has an underwhelming $121,000 in his campaign account and as recently as two years ago had talked openly about his desire to leave Congress to run for governor.
Davis — who, like Gordon and Tanner, is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats — did acknowledge efforts to recruit him for the gubernatorial race, a logical move given Davis’ previous interest in the seat and the fact that the Democratic gubernatorial field has undergone an upheaval in recent weeks.
State Sen. Roy Herron (D), who had been viewed as a frontrunner in the primary, dropped his gubernatorial bid to run for Congress. Days later, Nashville businessman Ward Cammack (D) also dropped out of the race.
But Davis — who got a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee this Congress — said he has no plans to carry his party’s standard in that race.
“I intend to spend the rest of my life while I’m running for elected office being a Member— of Congress, Davis said.
He added that he and his constituents don’t pay much attention to the “dog and pony shows— that Republicans are playing with their attempts to apply pressure to veteran Democrats who represent conservative districts in an attempt to force more retirements and create more pickup opportunities.
While national Republicans are intent on giving Davis a serious challenge in 2010, some state GOP operatives also say they can wait a cycle and try to cut Davis’ seat away from him through the redistricting process following next year’s census.
“My family and I had a conversation about reapportionment and it was either my wife or oldest daughter that said, Well Dad, it doesn’t matter what they do to you. They can’t put you in any more conservative district.’—
Davis’ 4th district seat will be hard for Democrats to hold when he does decide to vacate it.
McCain carried it with 64 percent in the 2008 presidential contest. In 2004, former President George W. Bush won the seat with 58 percent of the vote.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said that when it comes to retirement speculation, party leaders have been talking with Members about their future plans and will continue to do so.
“As [DCCC] Chairman [Chris] Van Hollen has said time and again, this cycle there will be no surprises and there certainly won’t be the wave of retirements that the NRCC is predicting,— Crider said. “The NRCC’s wishful thinking won’t make up for their committee’s political failures, excessive spending and Republican civil war.—
NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for their recent retirement issues.
“The wildly out-of-touch policies of the Obama-Pelosi agenda have alienated millions of voters and left Democrat incumbents with a disastrous choice to make: Retire now or lose in November,— Spain said. “It’s only fitting that Democrats are ending their last legislative week of the year trying to contain the chaos within their own ranks.—
Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.