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Democrats Resist Retirement Pull

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Rep. Dale Kildee, who may be affected by redistricting in Michigan, said there is always heightened concern every 10 years.

“There’s a certain awareness when your district is going to change,” Kildee said.

But the 17-term Michigan Democrat, who turned 81 this fall, said he doesn’t have his eye on retirement.

“I have no plans now,” Kildee said. “I just won my re-election. I’m more focused on my election that was just a month ago.”

The average age of Democrats in the next Congress skews slightly older than Republicans (59.1 for Democrats to 53.6 for Republicans), but there are nearly twice as many septuagenarians and octogenarians in the Democrats’ ranks, raising questions about whether some of those folks might soon head for the exits. Democrats will have 29 Members older than 70 in the next Congress. Republicans will have 15.

The top three members of Democratic leadership — Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — are all in the 70-and-over club and are significantly older than Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio), who celebrated his 61st birthday last month. Boehner’s two top lieutenants — incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and presumptive Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — are 47 and 45 years old, respectively.

The senior Democratic aide predicted that even some members of the Democratic leadership might ponder retirement but pointed out that many of the remaining older Democrats are in politically safe districts, a factor that could work in Democrats’ favor. Some of the Democrats in conservative-leaning districts who might have been open to retirement considerations as members of the minority — Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton and South Carolina Rep. John Spratt — will already be gone. Both lost their re-election bids on Nov. 2.

Returning Democrats in competitive districts will likely face pressure to commit to running again by late summer or early fall, if not sooner.

“I doubt it will be immediate, but I do think — if they are sitting in a seat that would at all be competitive — they would want to give the committee time to recruit a good replacement,” the senior Democratic aide said.

Republicans say they are less worried about a rush of Members leaving, but there still are some potential retirees, according to Republican aides and K Streeters. Their watch list includes Reps. Ralph Hall (Texas), Bill Young (Fla.) and Don Young (Alaska).

Don Young has already publicly stated that he intends to run for re-election in 2012, and Bill Young, 80, said that although he has had health problems over the past year, he still has work to do.

And Hall, who will be the oldest House Member in the 112th Congress at age 87, still views his retirement day as far in the future.

“Someday. I never say never,” Hall said. “I’m campaigning right now for the election in two years.”

“I have stamina,” he added. “I can outwork most anyone here.”

Amanda Allen contributed to this report.

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