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Woolsey Eyes Exit; 2012 Looms

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“An improving economy and successful encounters with Congressional Republicans in 2011, as well as tolerable boundaries in the redrawing of their House districts, could lead many potential Democratic retirees to stick around,” Mann said. “If all three factors turn south, expect a rush to the door.”

Facing a daunting 2010 midterm election cycle, several Democrats in tough Southern districts retired rather than engage in a potentially brutal fight. The question now is whether more will be on the way after Republicans stormed back to control.

Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and John Conyers (Mich.), three long-serving Democrats who will be losing their committee chairmanships with a move back to the minority, told Roll Call last month that the change in power has not yet led them to think about retirement.

Likewise, a spokesman for Rep. Edolphus Towns, the outgoing chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Tuesday that the 15-term Brooklyn Democrat was not thinking about retirement at this point.

However, redistricting likely will have an effect on retirements in some states, including Massachusetts. Democrats hold all 10 seats in the Bay State, which will lose a district in reapportionment, forcing one Member out.

The loss of districts in New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and others could also pinch Members from either party not willing to put up a fight in a new district.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), whose district could be one of two that the state is losing in reapportionment, spelled out the concern in an e-mail to supporters last week: “The question will not be: Who is my opponent? The question will be: Where is my district?”

On the Republican side, the ages of several Members have led to rumors of potential retirements, including Reps. Ralph Hall (Texas), Howard Coble (N.C.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Bill Young (Fla.), though none have publicly indicated their thinking. Hall will be chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress. Young has said he expects to be named chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Ambition will be another leading factor in GOP retirements, with Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Mike Pence (Ind.) among those believed to be considering bids for higher office.

Rep. Charlie Rangel hinted last month that this could be his last term. The New York Democrat, who has served in the House for half his life, told the New York Daily News, “I do realize that I’m 80 years old.”

Rangel was censured last month for ethics violations and previously lost his seat at the head of the Ways and Means Committee while under investigation.

Like Woolsey, Rangel’s district is in no danger of going Republican. But if he is on his way out, Rangel indicated he would like some say in who comes next, mentioning three names to the Daily News: state Assemblyman Keith Wright and state Sens. Adriano Espaillat and Robert Rodriguez.

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