RENZI THROWIN' IN THE TOWEL. ANYONE SURPRISED?
You shouldn't be. Speculation has been raging for months and very few incumbents relish the idea of running a campaign from a prison cell. And Rick Renzi (R-AZ) is most likely headed for one before the '08 election. He would have resigned already-- after the FBI and IRS raided his place and seized his papers-- but the Republicans begged him to stick it out because they're too broke to fight for his-- or Doolittle's-- seats in special elections now.
Yesterday's Washington Post carried a statement from Renzi calling it quits:
"I will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008," Renzi said in a brief statement released by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The Arizona Daily Star has the local angle and Roll Call fleshed it out a bit: "I will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008. I am honored and thankful to serve Arizona's first district and appreciate all that we have accomplished together over the past 6 years."
The Republicans, of course, are better off without him, and in that hot sun down there, plenty of easily brainwashed Republican voters will forget in a year and a half that Republicans are the party of organized crime. There are a few Democrats who have already jumped into the race. The Insider Establishment is rallying around State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who I've heard nothing but crap about from my Arizona friends. The woman who ran last time (and held Renzi to a 51% share of the vote), Ellen Simon, told me on the phone she wasn't going to run again-- a real shame. The progressive who is taking up the challenge, however, Howard Shanker, sounds like a great guy.
I found an interview with Shanker in a local paper. The last question and his answer revealed a lot:
Democrats took hold of Congress in 2006 with the winds of change at their backs. How do you think they have performed, so far, and how difficult to you think it will be to actually change the entrenched business of politics once you're a House member?
Democrats took control of Congress but they still cannot override a Presidential veto. The Democrats have done some good (and some not so good) already. The impression I have is that some Democrats feel like they have to somehow pander to the right on various issues in order to stay in office. There is validity to the proposition that an elected official has to represent all of his or her constituents. There should, however, also be a number of issues that are important to any elected official (why else would they run) on which they take a specific and well enunciated stand that doesn't change unless presented with compelling facts that justify a change in position. I think that many of our Representatives may be missing, or sacrificing, some of this passion or commitment on issues like the war, the environment, alternative energy, fiscal responsibility, in exchange for political expediency. Compromise in Congress is essential, but like anything else, there has to be a good reason warranting any particular compromise or decision. It will likely be difficult to change the entrenched "politics as usual" once I am in office -- but not impossible and we need to start somewhere. As I discussed in response to one of your earlier questions, I represent environmental, Native American, civil rights, and community groups in litigation against the federal and state government on a regular basis. In other words, my chosen career path can be compared to banging your head against a wall for a living. I strongly believe that if you bang your head against a wall long enough, eventually the wall is going to break. Realistically, as a junior Congressman I could likely begin to chip away at "politics as usual" from the outside. Given enough grass roots support and a little time, however, I have no doubt that the wall will break.
The Republicans are likely to nominate someone even further to the right than Renzi, perhaps even an out and out maniac like Ken Bennett, a Mormon fanatic with a very bizarre history of family problems. Bennett's son Clifton "confessed to police that he and Wheeler sodomized the 11- to 14-year-old boys with broomsticks and flashlights in at least 40 incidents, court documents show." Rumors have been rampant that his father the would-be congressman got him off the hook.