Rep. Moore becomes first House member to announce retirement

Rep. Moore becomes first House member to announce retirement

Rep. Dennis Moore’s (D-Kan.) retirement might not lead to the mass Democratic exodus that Republicans hope for, but it is another good sign for the GOP in 2010.

Moore, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, on Monday became the first incumbent this cycle to announce he would retire from Congress next year without running for another office. The GOP immediately began asking whether other veteran Democrats would bow to the political pressure and join him.


In fact, Moore’s impending exit was reported as early as late 2008 — his office denied it at the time — and there have been rumblings of his stepping aside for some time. If anything, the political calculations appear to have been a contributing factor.

Moore, like many conservative Democrats, would probably face a tough reelection bid, since he voted for the stimulus, climate change legislation and the healthcare bill.

What his exit does present, though, is Case Study No. 1 in how the Republicans regain seats in 2010. Moore’s district is heavily suburban and includes a decent-sized black population and a big college campus.

Such districts went en masse for Democrats in 2006 and 2008, with President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India Obama to join NBA Africa as strategic partner MORE on the ballot in the latter year to drive the youth and black votes. Moore’s district followed suit, going 51-48 for the president thanks to big turnout in urban Kansas City, Kan., and the Lawrence area, which is home to the University of Kansas.

Previously, it went by double digits twice for President George W. Bush.

“The fact that Dennis Moore doesn’t want to run for reelection on a record of creating more government at the expense of American jobs proves that the Democrats will face an uphill battle to hold onto this seat next November,” said Tom Erickson, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

While there could be a few more Democratic retirements in the offing, signs point strongly against the kind of mass retirements that sank the party in 1994 and contributed to the GOP’s big losses the last two elections.

What’s more, we are unlikely to see retirements lumped together as Republicans did, said David Wasserman, an analyst at The Cook Political Report.

“You can expect a handful of senior Democrats to call it quits, but leaders usually ask them to hold off on announcing their departures until as late as possible,” Wasserman said. “The last thing Democrats want is for retirements to take the appearance of a mass exodus.”

Republicans pointed to several other potential retirements that could recast races in key districts, including those of longtime Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), John Spratt (D-S.C.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.), Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

There is, as yet, little indication that any of these members will call it quits. But Republicans have done their best to sign up top challengers to each of them and call their records into question in conservative districts. If history is any guide, such a strategy can pay dividends.

But Gabby Adler, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said Moore’s retirement is hardly the tipping point the GOP would like it to be.

“There are congressional retirements every election cycle,” Adler said. “Moore’s district is exactly the type of moderate suburban district Democrats have done well in over the past few cycles, and we are in a strong position to hold onto this seat.”

Democrats sought to emphasize that Moore’s situation is an isolated incident featuring unique factors.

Whatever the case, it will pave the way for a tough open-seat defense for Democrats, as the six-term incumbent has resolutely held onto a conservative-leaning district that often frustrated Republicans.

Moore, 64, won the seat in 1998 and has been a target ever since.

Former state Sen. Nick Jordan, who fell to Moore 56-40 last year but was seen as a good recruit, is among those already eyeing Moore’s seat. And state Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE was quick to announce an exploratory committee Monday morning.

Other potential GOP candidates include attorney Greg Musil, state GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins, neurosurgeon Steve Reintjes and state Sen. Jeff Colyer. Reintjes and Colyer, who is a plastic surgeon, could bring personal resources to the race.

Former state Rep. Patricia Lightner is currently running on the GOP side, but she has not garnered much attention.

On the Democratic side, former Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Carol Marinovich and current Mayor Joe Reardon would be big gets. Others mentioned include state House Minority Leader Paul Davis and state Sen. Chris Steineger. Gov. Mark Parkinson is from the district but hasn’t shown much interest in running for another political office.

Democrats weren’t talking much Monday, out of deference to Moore’s announcement and tenure.

In contrast, Republicans immediately began playing up their chances in the district. Still, they acknowledged the district remains challenging for them in certain ways.

“Democrats have a history of doing pretty well in Johnson County,” said a Kansas GOP operative of the district’s suburban center. “I hate to say it, but it’s a suburban area that can vote for a Democrat if it’s a Democrat they’re comfortable with.”

Jordan is an early favorite to carry the GOP banner, but former state GOP executive director Christian Morgan said a crowded primary is expected, and candidates are already coming out of the woodwork.

“People have been waiting for this for a long time,” Morgan said. He said Jordan would rise to the top of the list, but the Kansas City media market will put money at a premium.