Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conrad Retires Again

Conrad Retires Again

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced his second career retirement today, which gives me an excuse to recall how Conrad kept a term limits pledge yet stayed in the Senate with no break in service. It was a tough trick which may not be possible without some death involved.

Us old-timers remember that first Kent Conrad retirement. Back in 1992. When he was first elected in `86, Conrad pledged that he'd step down after one term if the deficit hadn't been cut by 80 percent. Despite realizing fairly soon how tough a call that was, Conrad kept his word and stood down in 1992.

A few months later, the state's other senator, Quentin Burdick, died. (They called him "Young Burdick," even though he was 84 when he died, to distinguish him from his father Usher Burdick, who served in the House.) Conrad had been popular when he retired, and his stock had jumped even higher since he kept his term limit pledge. So he easily won a December `92 special election for the last two years of Young Burdick's term.

In fact, depending on who you believe, Conrad may have been two senators for a few minutes on December 14, 1992, much in the way Barry Wom was two hairdressers.

This time Conrad, while still a budget hawk, didn't make any one-term pledges. He won a full term against the tide in 1994, and by the time he was up again in 2000 Bill Clinton had turned the deficit into a surplus. 2006 was a great Democratic year...

...which brings us to the present day. Conrad's second retirement still leaves him one short of the career record held by Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, though Favre is likely to break that tie soon if anyone cares. And after Saturday no one in Wisconsin does anymore.

As for North Dakota, that one'll be a tough hold. It was looking tough even for Conrad; Republicans were already (!) running ads against him in the uber-cheap North Dakota media market.

I'm not sure what's sillier: the man who was two hairdressers senators or the cat in Boston who got jury duty.

What's not silly: full court press appears to be on for photo ID to vote. That's not why Mike Mauro lost. Mike Mauro lost because it was a really bad no good horrible year for Democrats, and because with only one term under his belt, a vote for Mauro wasn't yet ingrained to the point of muscle memory the way it is with eight-termers Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald. It's time to make Republicans Don't Want You To Vote an acronym, as I'll be using it often and the full phrase fills up 24.2% of a tweet.

With "the new-found-civility after Tucson" (sic) in the air, Dave Loebsack is all up for shuffling the seats at next week's State Of The Union, but Steve King ain't. I kinda like the spectacle of one side giving standing O's and the other sitting on its hands and glaring, but then I'm a hyperpartisan.

Hyperpartisan enough, in fact, to wonder what the answer was to this question:
With doctors preparing Giffords for the rehabilitation stage of her recovery, the discovery Monday of a little-known statutory provision in Arizona law raised the prospect of a legal complication that, if left unamended, would endanger her hold on her seat.

A statute buried in state law says that if a public officeholder ceases to "discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months," the office shall be deemed vacant and that at such time, a special election could be called to fill the opening.

But in Washington, lawyers quickly concluded that the statute does not apply to members of Congress. The U.S. Constitution provides the qualifications for service in Congress and makes the House the sole judge of those qualifications.
More important: that had to have been the Best. Neckrub. Ever.

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