Massachusetts Lawmaker 16th Democrat to Leave House

One day after Rep. Eric Massa (D.-NY) stunned political pundits by announcing he was stepping down after one term, the veteran Democratic House Member that everyone has guessed will call it quits made it official Thursday. 

At 68 and after 14 years in the House, far-left Democratic Rep. William Delahunt announced that he would not seek re-election to his Cape Cod-area House district.  The lawmaker cited the usual “personal reasons” that most retiring politicians do for leaving office.  In his words, “[Retirement has] got nothing to do with politics.  Life is about change.  I think it’s healthy. It’s time.”

But Delahunt’s announcement also gave some hints that the magic and excitement of being a Democratic congressman when Barack Obama is President — which admirers have long likened to serving during the early presidential stints of Franklin D. Roosevelt and :John F. Kennedy — is fading.  And it makes one wonder that with Delahunt becoming the 16th Democratic House Members to announce retirement, how many more will follow him?

The congressman admitted to reporters that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-MA) talked him out of his desire to quit in ’08.  As Delahunt put it, Kennedy told him “Come on.  This is a new time.  It’s a new era.  We [will] have a new president.  We’re all needed.”

But now the new President predicted to Delahunt by Kennedy has been in office for fourteen months and, quite obviously, the incentive is not there for the congressman to stay on the job.  Delahunt did not say this but he did hint that the death of his friend and fellow arch-liberal Kennedy last year had an impact on him.

“Clearly, since his death, there’s something missing.  There’s a void,” said Delahunt, who told the Boston Globe he had “grappled with whether to stay and work on the issues Kennedy held dear.”

Clearly, those issues — obviously one of them being health care reform, now being debated in Congress — were not enough to motivate Delahunt to stay.

For weeks before Delahunt’s announcement, speculation was rampant that his anticipated exit would be followed by an announcement of candidacy by Joseph P. Kennedy, III, grand-nephew of Ted and an assistant district attorney in the Cape Cod area.  But last weekend, the 29-year-old Kennedy announced that he would not run if the U.S. House district became open. 

At a time when Democrats are now scrambling for a well-known candidate to run for Delahunt’s seat, area Republicans appear to be uniting behind former State Treasurer Joe Malone.   With at least one poll showing him defeating Delahunt, Malone, who was the 1988 nominee against Ted Kennedy, got another boost last week with fellow Republican and State Sen. Robert Hedlund announced he would not run for Congress.  Even when Delahunt was thought to be considering re-election, national GOPers were eying his district as a pickup because it was one in which Scott Brown rolled up 60% of the vote in the special U.S. Senate race January 20th.

Now it’s open and at least even money to elect a Republican.  The question now is how many other Democratic-held House districts will fall into this category?