Noted Abramoff amigo John Doolittle, after months of insisting he would seek reelection despite being crushed in polls and fundraising by Democrat Charlie Brown, has apparently seen the writing on the wall:
Republican Rep. John Doolittle of California, who is under investigation in a congressional lobbying scandal, said Thursday that he'll retire from Congress at the end of his current term.
"My wife, Julie, and I have made this decision after much prayer and deliberation. It was not my initial intent to retire, and I fully expected and planned to run again right up until very recently," Doolittle said after addressing supporters in his Northern California district.
It's been an open secret for months that if Doolittle stuck around, the GOP would, barring a miracle, lose a seat in this strongly Republican district which went for Bush 61-39 in 2004, as 2006 opponent Charlie Brown is back for more.
The GOP has been pressuring Doolittle to bail for quite some time, as they know that renominating him would be a sure ticket to defeat.
Still, Doolittle's arrogance led him to fight this until (almost) the bitter end:
For months Doolittle resisted suggestions that he retire, branding his GOP critics "weasels." But he faced mounting legal bills and at least two declared Republican primary opponents, with others waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, the Democrat he barely beat in 2006, Charlie Brown, collected 10 times as much money as the incumbent for a rematch.
Doolittle also had half the cash on hand of fellow Republican candidate Eric Egland, as of November.
With Doolittle out, former State Sen. Rico Oller will likely jump in the race (he's expected to be Doolittle's choice for the race). California Assemblyman Ted Gaines, who previously formed an exploratory committee, and former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Doug Ose are also possible candidates, in addition to Egland.
Doolittle's retirement is not especially good news for us, as a generic Republican starts with a considerable advantage in this district. However, we've still got a shot at this race; as mentioned, Brown's fundraising has been excellent, and his name recognition is also very good after his strong 2006 run.
Also, the spectre of Doolittle's corruption will hang over the Republican candidate in the district, particularly if it's a Doolittle crony like Rico Oller. With luck, Oller will be the Joy Padgett of 2006.