Van Hollen Downplays Danger of a Retirement ‘Surge’

Posted December 17, 2009 at 11:55am

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) expressed optimism Thursday about the 2010 election cycle, despite the announced retirements of several House Democrats in the last month.

Four Democratic Members in competitive districts have announced their retirements since mid-November, ringing alarm bells on Capitol Hill for the majority party.

With a few more Members still expected to announce their retirements this cycle, Van Hollen attempted to put the state of his Caucus in historical perspective at a meeting with reporters.

“While there may be additional Democratic retirements … we absolutely do not expect a large surge on the order of 1994,— Van Hollen said, citing the 28 Democratic retirements that year — and the subsequent GOP takeover of the House.

Van Hollen said on average there have been 14 Democratic retirements every cycle since 1996. So far this cycle, 10 Democrats have announced they will not run for re-election.

Four Democratic Members in competitive districts — Reps. Dennis Moore (Kan.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.), John Tanner (Tenn.) and Brian Baird (Wash.) — announced their intentions not to run for re-election in recent weeks.

And unlike in 1994, Van Hollen said, Democrats are prepared for a very challenging cycle with programs for vulnerable Members such as “Frontline.—

The chairman also cited his committee’s almost three-to-one cash-on-hand advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“We have been working with our new Members and our veteran Members, our longtime Members, to make sure that they are preparing for this cycle,— he said.

In anticipation of Van Hollen’s remarks, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) penned a memo to his colleagues in which his committee takes credit for pushing Democratic Members in competitive districts into retirement.

Sessions said the NRCC has recruited candidates in 36 of the 43 DCCC Frontline districts.

“For this reason, the NRCC has no plans to halt our efforts to target these senior members and force Democrats to defend seats that are increasingly leaning in our favor,— Sessions wrote to his colleagues.