- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Alabama Republican Rep. Sonny Callahan surprised many in his state yesterday by deciding to retire from Congress after almost 18 years of service.
Meanwhile, Rep. Robert A. Borski, Pennsylvania Democrat, announced yesterday he will not seek an 11th term due to redistricting changes that would force him to run against a fellow incumbent Democrat.
Republicans are confident they can hold on to Mr. Callahan's seat. Alabama's 1st District gave 61 percent of its vote to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election and has re-elected Mr. Callahan by "huge margins for years," said Tim Baer, executive director of the Republican Party of Alabama.
"It's a Republican seat. It's been held by a Republican in Congress for 40 years," Mr. Baer said. "So the fight will be in the primary, which will be held June 4."
Tom Young, chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, plans to run for the seat.
Mr. Shelby released a statement Monday afternoon endorsing Mr. Young's bid. "Tom has worked for me, and for the people of South Alabama, for [12] years," Mr. Shelby's statement read. "There is no candidate more qualified than Tom, and no one will work harder for the people of Alabama's First District."
The GOP primary could position two former Capitol Hill chiefs of staff against each other. Another possible candidate being mentioned by Republican sources in Mr. Callahan's district is that of Jo Bonner, Mr. Callahan's chief of staff, who has worked for him more than 15 years.
"He's been in Washington and knows the people involved there. He knows the different committees and how to get things done," said Dianne Welch, chairman of the Monroe County Republicans.
William Pfeifer, chairman of the Baldwin County Democratic Executive Committee, pointed out that Mr. Callahan has not faced a strong Democratic challenger in a while, and such a candidate could bring out more Democratic voters in the district. He said retired naval Capt. Richard E. Southworth might be such a challenger.
Mr. Callahan was first elected to Congress in 1984 and served as the chairman of the House Appropriations foreign operations, export financing and related programs subcommittee for six years, starting in 1995. He currently chairs the House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee a key position since Alabama has one of the largest intrastate water systems in the nation.
Mr. Callahan also holds a House leadership post, serving as one of 49 assistant majority whips.
Meanwhile, Mr. Borski blamed the Pennsylvania redistricting plan for his retirement. Mr. Borski's 3rd District, which encompassed mostly urban northeast Philadelphia, was divided up under the plan. The new district contains much of suburban, Republican-leaning Montgomery County. Mr. Borski would have to run against Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel, Pennsylvania Democrat, whose base is in Montgomery County.
"Great lengths were taken to divide counties, townships and communities that share common values and interests," Mr. Borski said in a statement Monday. "I maintain that in drawing this map, the Republican leadership acted unconstitutionally, violating the constitutional principle of one person, one vote."
Pennsylvania Democrats filed lawsuits against the redistricting plan in both state and federal court. The state Supreme Court has upheld the plan, said Dan Hayward, political director for the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. But Mr. Borski said he hopes "that the federal court will recognize that Northeast Philadelphia deserves its own representation. While I am prepared to fight until the very end, I am not actively seeking election in the new district."
Mr. Hayward said Melissa Brown is planning to run for the seat on the Republican side.


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