U.S. Senate '04: Four Down, Two More to Go?

Four of the 34 U.S. Senators up for election next year have announced their exiting–Zell Miller (Ga.), John Edwards (S.C.), and Ernest Hollings (S.C.), Democrats all, and Republican Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.)

Now, signs are ominous that the next two senatorial shoes to drop will be those of Republican Don Nickles (Okla.) and Democrat John Breaux (La.). Word on the D.C. cocktail circuit over the weekend was that four-termer and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Nickles was anxious to make more money in the private sector, as was Breaux (who has been courted for every seven-figure lobbying job from legislative pointman of the Recording Industry Association of America to succeeding Jack Valenti as head of the Motion Picture Association of America).

Democratic Rep. Brad Carson, one of his party’s few bright lights in the Sooner State, has signaled he will run for the Senate if Nickles bails. Similarly, Republican Rep. Ernest Istook, stalwart conservative and key Appropriations Committee Member, wants to run, while former Rep. J.C. Watts, the last black Republican in the House, is also being touted for an open Senate seat (although Watts-watchers say that he is thoroughly enjoying his current niche as chairman of Newt Gingrich’s old GOPAC and corporate board member). All bets are off on the Republican side if popular former two-term Gov. Frank Keating decides to forego his current job as head of the American Council of Life Insurers and return to the hustings.

Louisiana Democrats insist that Breaux will hold off an announcement until at least November to pump up friend and fellow Democrat, Rep. Chris John, for succession; the near-certain GOP candidate is staunch conservative Rep. David Vitter. Louisiana is the lone Southern State not to have elected a Republican senator since Reconstruction.