Neither rookies nor seasoned veterans were spared in Tuesday’s House Democratic bloodbath, which saw Republicans defeat three major committee chairmen and at least seven lawmakers who had 20 years’ seniority or more in Congress.
While the losses of 16 freshmen “Obama babies” - those elected during the president’s 2008 sweep - were expected, the number of long-serving Democrats who lost re-election this week is staggering, and suggests a widespread dissatisfaction with Washington.
With about a dozen races still undecided, Democrats have already shed 376 years of congressional experience, and that could go as high as 430 years if five other Democrats lose races in which returns show they are trailing.
Losing outright were 18-term incumbent Minnesota Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; 14-term South Carolina Rep. John M. Spratt, chairman of the Budget Committee; and 17-term Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
The victorious Republicans in these races said voters were tired of the Democratic agenda.
“The people of the 4th [District] are just fed up with Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda and disappointed that our representative has squandered his vote with her,” Republican Rep.-elect Vicky Hartzler said Tuesday, who defeated Mr. Skelton by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin.
Nine of the 27 longest-serving House Democrats either lost their election or retired and saw their seats go to Republicans.
In the past, lawmakers could point to their seniority - and its attendant ability to steer federal money or other largesse back home - in trying to win voters’ support. But 2010 marked a dramatic change from that, as seniority and spending became symbols of the institutional Washington many voters wanted to reject.
As bad as the numbers are for incumbents who lost, they actually understate the total cost of party seniority for the Democrats this year.
Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey, a 21-term incumbent from Wisconsin, retired this year rather than seek re-election in his Wisconsin district, while Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, lost in a primary. Republicans won in Mr. Obey’s district and appeared likely to capture Mr. Mollohan’s old seat in a very tight race.
Fourteen-term Pennsylvania Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, who chaired one of the key subcommittees on the House Financial Services Committee, went down to defeat, as did 10-term Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, a chairman of one of the Appropriations subcommittees.
Trailing in tight races Wednesday - though their races were not yet called - were 14-term incumbent Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas Democrat, and four other Democrats with a total of 13 terms among them.
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