I think the Democrats figured they had closed the book on House retirements this year. Bart Stupak seemed to be the final departure. But Politico reports that David Obey, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, will not seek re-election.

In a major blow to Democrats, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey has told close associates that he will not seek re-election and an announcement of his plans is expected as early as Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Democrat faces tough poll numbers at home but until Tuesday night his staff had insisted he was running aggressively and had hired campaign staff. But a person close to him confirmed the decision to POLITICO Wednesday and said Obey was preparing to make a statement.

Obey was set to face a competitive race, possibly from Sean from The Real World Boston (no, really), in November. He was first elected in 1968, making him the third-most senior House Democrat. Maybe he didn’t want to fight for his seat.

The turnover in the House is pretty striking – while more Republicans are departing, I believe this makes the 39th member of Congress not seeking re-election to his or her seat. Most of these seats will stay with the same party, but it’s an indication that members are not enthused about re-election campaigns in this political climate. And Obey is a real lion – like that, the two top members of the Appropriations Committee (Obey and the late John Murtha) will be gone.

UPDATE: Wisconsin conservative blogger Kevin Binversie suggests that State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker would be the logical Democratic replacement on the ballot for Obey.

David Dayen

David Dayen