This is unbelievable. House Appropriations Chair Dave Obey, D-Wausau, announced retirement today, saying it's "my time to go." Obey noted wryly during a Washington, D.C., news conference that he was the youngest member of Congress when he was elected in 1969, but that is no longer the case as he approaches 72 this fall. The dynamics of this race have completely flipped. You can bet in the coming days the Cook Political Report will change the race-rating from "Likely Dem" to "toss up." With six months until election day, the Dems are without a candidate.
Dems immediately began throwing out names like Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, state Sens. Pat Kreitlow and Julie Lassa, and state Reps. Donna Seidel and Amy Sue Vruwink.
Lassa and Vruwink certainly fit the narrative of a Real World race. Both are relatively young (40 and 35) and relatively telegenic. Lassa has been a legislator for more than 10 years and Vruwink has been around since 2002. Both chair relevant commitees Lassa the Senate Econ. Development Committee and Vruwink the Assembly Agriculture Committee. Vruwink is also an avid hunter and an NRA member, facts that could play well in the district.
Decker might be further removed from his constituency than some of the other legislators, given his duties as Senate majority leader, however, he would probably be able to draw a bigger fundraising base from statewide sources.
All of this is premature, but hell, everything is premature in politics.
What I will say is that Wisconsin is looking like an increasingly competitive state this cycle. Kagen's seat in Northeast is a toss-up, and now it looks like the Northwestern seat will be too. A Senate bid from Tommy Thompson and a retirement from Ron Kind would have made the Badger State one of the most competitive in the nation, however, I still think Kind and Feingold are relatively safe incumbents.
Maybe Obey retired because he thought he was going to lose, however, he may have also reasoned that he didn't want to stick around another two years if the Democrats lose their majority, which is a very real possibility. There's no better time to retire than right before you lose your committee chairmanship.
Nevertheless, you can bet the Dems are pissed. He should have announced earlier, and given them some time to develop a candidate. Now Duffy has the advantage of months of campaigning, although his fundraising probably was not as good as it would have been had Obey withdrawn earlier. Republican donors were less likely to give to a hopeless campaign against an entrenched incumbent than a campaign for an open seat in a swing district.