Democrats lose centuries of seniority in House

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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 claimed 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.

All told, with about a dozen races still uncalled, 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.

As bad as the numbers are, 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.

And 10-term Rep. Chet Edwards, a chairman of one of the Appropriations subcommittees, lost his re-election bid in Texas.

Trailing on Wednesday morning, 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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