Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., to retire

Liberal stalwart's decision could mean pickup opportunity for Republicans

Published March 5, 2010 1:59AM (EST)

Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., a liberal who's served in Congress since 1997, will not run for another term, the Boston Globe reports. His decision gives Republicans -- already motivated in Massachusetts after Scott Brown's win there -- a chance at the seat.

Democratic leaders had been dreading this news, which appeared likely for a while now. The fact that Joseph P. Kennedy III, grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, decided earlier this week that he will not run for the seat (Delahunt had already let it be known he was considering retirement) makes this a harsher blow still.

Massachusetts is, of course, a blue state in the middle of a solidly blue area of the country -- there are currently no Republicans from New England serving in the House. But Brown's victory showed that in this political climate, not even the Bay State is a safe haven for Democrats. And out of every district in the state, Delahunt's is the one most favorable to Republicans. If the congressman wasn't retiring, that would matter much less. In the past, he's been considered safe enough that the GOP didn't even bother running someone against him in 2008.

Now, though, things will be different. Brown's biggest margin of victory across the state came in the district. It's the most conservative in Massachusetts, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Granted, because other areas of the state are so liberal, that's a low bar -- the district's PVI score is D +5, which is normally a pretty good sign for a Democrat  -- but no one's taking something like that for granted this year.

The top candidate to replace Delahunt as the Democratic nominee may be William Keating, a former state senator and the current Norfolk County district attorney -- that's the same post that Delahunt held when he ran for Congress in 1996. Ian Bowles, who finished third in the Democratic primary that year and who is now the state's secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs might be interested, too, as will many other Democrats from the South Shore and Cape Cod.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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