Voinovich Retires

Heh, that was quick:

“After prayerful consideration and much thought, my wife Janet and I have decided that I will not seek a third term in the United States Senate,” he writes on his Senate website. “Not since the Great Depression and the Second World War have we been confronted with such challenges, as a nation and as a world. Those of us that have been given the honor to serve in these times must step up to the plate and put this country on a course that will see it through these harrowing times and make it strong and viable for the 21st century. These next two years in office, for me, will be the most important years that I have served in my entire political career. I must devote my full time, energy and focus to the job I was elected to do, the job in front of me, which seeking a third term – with the money-raising and campaigning that it would require – would not allow me to do.”

Obviously the first question most people have is how this will effect the 2010 election, and who will be competing to take the seat. Marc Ambinder speculates that Rob Portman and John Kasich will be interested in the seat, and that’s probably a safe bet. Mike DeWine will probably look into the chance to return to Washington as well. But my bet is that the discussion begins and ends with Portman. If he gets in, for the most part the field will be pretty clear. If not, well it’s a pretty short bench for the Ohio GOP, although I’d keep an eye on Rep. Mike Turner of the 3rd district (Dayton), who may fear a Democratic led redistricting effort after 2010 and may take a crack at the Senate.

The Democratic side is much more interesting. Ambinder singles out Representatives Betty Sutton, Tim Ryan, Zach Space, and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher. The guys at Buckeye State Blog call Tim Ryan the likely grassroots favorite, and they’re probably right about that, and speculate that the establishment pick is going to be Fisher. Personally, I think a lot of this is pretty CW heavy stuff. If Portman does run, I think the Democrats (especially in the DSCC) are likely to want a much stronger candidate than Fisher, who served only one term as Attorney General that ended in 1995, and hasn’t won an election since (the Lt. Governor runs on a ticket with Ohio and is hand picked by the gubernatorial candidate, they aren’t their own independent race). And while I do think that Sutton and Ryan will look into the race, I don’t see Space making much of an effort at the seat, and Washington Democrats will certainly want to keep him in the 18th district, which is still heavily Republican and where Democrats will need the benefits of incumbency to compete.

So my Democrat to watch is Rep. Marcy Kaptur of the 9th district (Toledo). A longtime representative with a decently high profile, I suspect she would be Chuck Schimer’s first choice to run against Portman, and if she did get in the race I suspect the field would probably be pretty clear. But she at 62 years old I don’t know if she’ll want to trade in a very senior position in the House, and some choice subcommittee assignments on the Appropriations committee, to take a very junior position in a very large Senate caucus. But that’s the person to watch, at least initially.

The more short term, substantive question is how this will affect this Congress. I generally think reputations for moderation are overblown, and Voinovich certainly had a pretty boilerplate Republican voting record in the chamber, but he was also the guy most responsible for blocking John Bolton’s appointment tobe UN Ambassador until Bush made him a recess appointment, and the freedom from having to worry about getting re-elected may leave him more willing to be a constructive partner for Senate Democrats. Maybe.