FIRST CASUALTY: DEM VOTE AND RUN
SCARED STUPAK ‘TO RETIRE’
Stupak to retire, putting seat in play
|Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who had a central role in the health reform fight as the leader of anti-abortion Democrats, plans to announce Friday that he will not run for reelection, a Democratic official said. Without Stupak on the ballot, the seat becomes an immediate pickup opportunity for Republicans.
“Now with health care done, he’s retiring,” a friend said. “He has thought about retiring for the last three cycles, but was always talked into staying: to elect John Kerry to help end the war, to elect a Democratic majority to get health care done.”
President Barack Obama called Stupak on Wednesday and asked him not to retire. Stupak, 58, also resisted entreaties from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the dean of the Wolverine State delegation.
Republicans immediately attributed Stupak’s decision to step down as a direct consequence of his health care vote.
“After selling his soul to Nancy Pelosi, it appears that Bart Stupak finally found the courage to tell her no,” said National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Ken Spain. “The political fallout over the Democrats’ government takeover of healthcare has put the political careers of many Democrats in jeopardy thanks in-part to Stupak’s decision to abandon his alleged pro-life principles.”
Republicans believe that other pro-life Democrats, like freshman Reps. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), will also face serious trouble because of their support for the health care legislation without strict anti-abortion provisions.
Stupak plans to continue to live in the district, the Democratic official said. He plans to say that as he opens a new chapter, he will continue to serve the people of the First District, just not as their congressman.
Friends said Stupak was not leaving because of the health fight but because of the exertion that would be required to hold his sprawling Upper Peninsula District. He made the final decision during a conversation with his family while in Indianapolis to root for Michigan State in the Final Four basketball game.
The Upper Peninsula seat gave President Obama just 50 percent of the vote, and supported former President Bush in 2004 with 53 percent. But Stupak never had faced difficulty winning re-election, always prevailing with at least 57 percent of the vote since first elected in 1992.
This year was shaping up to be a different story, with Stupak becoming a leading target on both his left and right flanks. Abortion rights supporters were rallying behind Charlevoix County Commissioner Connie Saltonstall after Stupak insisted on pro-life language being inserted in the health care legislation.
The Tea Party Express caravan, stopped in Stupak’s Upper Peninsula district last night to protest his health care vote as part of a concerted attempt to oust the incumbent. The group had named Stupak as one of its leading targets.
The friend said he believes he would have won, and added: “More than 95% of the opposition from left and right has come from outside of his district.”
And Republicans have rallied around surgeon Dan Benishek, a Tea Party favorite, who received very little attention until Stupak voted for the health care legislation even without receiving anti-abortion language in the bill itself. Benishek is expected to raise over $100,000 this quarter, according to GOP sources, a large amount for a first-time candidate who had virtually no campaign infrastructure before Stupak received national attention over his health care positioning.
Democrats who could hold the seat include state senator Jim Barcia (a former congressman), Mike Prusi and Gary McDowell, and state representatives Joel Sheltrown and Jeff Mayes.