Obey to Retire

Posted May 5, 2010 at 11:05am

Updated: 1:03 p.m.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the third-most-senior Member of the House, has decided he will not seek re-election in November.

Obey will disclose his plans at a 1 p.m. news conference on Capitol Hill, where he has served for more than four decades as the representative of Wisconsin’s northwestern 7th district.

Obey won most of his races by overwhelming margins, but Republicans were targeting him for defeat this year. Republicans’ preferred candidate, county prosecutor Sean Duffy, demonstrated early success in raising money.

Democratic sources said that Obey’s retirement does not come as a big surprise and that they have a deep bench of potential candidates in the district.

They noted that Obey’s district includes numerous state legislators who could take a look at the race, including state Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and state Sens. Pat Kreitlow and Julie Lassa. Among the other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates in the wake of Obey’s announcement are state Sen. Jim Holperin and state Reps. Ann Hraychuck, Amy Sue Vruwink and Donna Seidel, attorney Christine Bremer, local Judge Greg Huber and Obey District Director Doug Hill.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party will hold a conference call at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time to discuss Obey’s retirement and the race to succeed him in the 7th district.

Obey represents a geographically vast district that takes in Wausau and Stevens Point and is politically competitive. President Barack Obama took 56 percent of the vote in the 2008 election, when he was more popular than he is today. In 2004, the 7th backed Democratic nominee John Kerry by just 1 point.

Republicans immediately charged that Obey is running from a fight.

“There is no question that David Obey was facing the race of his life and that is why it is understandable that the architect of President [Barack] Obama’s failed stimulus plan has decided to call it quits,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said. “It is ironic that a Congressman who became infamously known for his short temper and angry tirades on the House floor is going out with such a whimper.”

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a senior appropriator, called Obey “one of the most consequential figures to chair Appropriations and he will be sorely missed.”

Moran said he expected Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) to succeed Obey as
Appropriations chairman — and retain the gavel on the panel’s Defense
subcommittee, which he just took over following the death of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)