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Powerful House Democrat David Obey to retire

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, will not seek another term in office, he said Wednesday.

By Staff writer / May 5, 2010

Wisconsin Congressman David Obey waves after announcing his retirement at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP



Facing an unusually tough reelection bid, Rep. David Obey (D) of Wisconsin, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Tuesday that he will step down at the end of his term.

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“Over the past few years, whenever a member of the press asked if I was contemplating retirement, I would respond by saying that I did not want to leave Congress until we had passed health-care reform. Well, now it has,” he said.

“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,” he added.

IN PICTURES: House Democrats retiring in 2010

The move was a blow to House Democrats, who are gearing up for midterm elections expected to reduce or even threaten their majority. Other prominent committee chairmen, including Reps. John Spratt (D) of South Carolina, Alan Mollohan (D) of West Virginia, Earl Pomeroy (D) of North Dakota, and Ike Skelton (D) of Missouri, also face close races this cycle.

Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak (D), who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced his decision to retire last month, after intense controversy at home over his role in brokering the interests of anti-abortion Democrats in the health-care debate.

“This is a wave election favoring Republican candidates – we just don’t know how big the wave is going to be,” says Nathan Gonzales, political editor for the Rothenberg Political Report. “Even though Obey was facing a good Republican challenger, his district is more Democratic than some of his colleagues that are up for reelection. He was in a serious race, but still favored for reelection.”

Obey’s most likely opponent in a fall general election was Republican district attorney Sean Duffy, backed by tea party activists. The National Republican Congressional Committee, in a statement, said that Obey was in “the race of his life.”

"This is more than a symbolic retirement – the architect of the failed stimulus has decided he cannot justify his votes in Congress to a district that has elected him for over 40 years," said Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in a fundraising appeal after Obey's announcement.