WASHINGTON – Casting another shadow over Democrats’ political prospects in the midterm elections, Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, who is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and one of the longest-serving members of Congress, announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election this year.
His retirement is the latest sign of how the increasingly partisan, anti-incumbent climate is taking a toll on the Washington political establishment, as a growing list of senior Democrats and Republicans have decided to leave Congress rather than face re-election.
The peril is especially great for the Democratic Party, which is already expected to suffer double-digit losses in congressional races this fall. Republicans, hoping to capitalize on the surly mood of the electorate, have targeted for defeat several senior members like Obey.
Obey, an old-school liberal who was first elected in 1969, faced the toughest re-election fight of his career but was still favored to win. He said at a Wednesday news conference that he was not quitting because he feared defeat but because he was “bone tired,” and had concluded that both he and his constituents would benefit from change.
“There is a time to stay and a time to go,” the 71-year-old Obey said. “And this is my time to go. … I haven’t done all the big things that I wanted to do when I started out, but I’ve done all the big things I’m likely to do.”
At the Appropriations Committee, which has vast jurisdiction over government spending, Obey is expected to be succeeded as chairman by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.