By Judson Berger
Congressional Democrats could soon have a retirement problem on their hands, with several representatives in vulnerable districts stepping down ahead of an election year where the party’s incumbents are already threatened by discontent over the economy.
Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip James Clyburn and Rep. Steny Hoyer, seen here in November, are working to limit losses of Democratic seats in the 2010 election, but recognize the historic challenges. In the back are Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. John Larson and Rep. Xavier Becerra (AP Photo).
Congressional Democrats could soon have a retirement problem on their hands — several representatives in vulnerable districts are stepping down ahead of an election year in which the party’s incumbents are already threatened by discontent over the economy.
In the course of less than a week this month, three Democratic representatives announced their resignations: Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.; Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii; and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash.
That brings the total number of open House seats to 11 for the Democrats, presenting Republicans with a plethora of attractive targets. While House Republicans have 12 members stepping down, many to run for higher office, most of them are leaving behind seats in reliably Republican districts.
By contrast, as many as seven seats left behind by Democrats are considered vulnerable. Two retirements, for instance, in conservative-leaning Tennessee, do not bode well for the Democratic Party.
“We’re playing to win,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, saying Republicans are looking to bring between 70 and 80 total House seats into play. “Immediately the retirement districts go to the top of the list.”
But Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said Sunday that Democrats are prepared for the challenge.
“We’re not going to be surprised like in 1994,” Van Hollen told Fox News Sunday, citing the year Republicans swept into the majority in Congress under President Clinton’s watch.