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Van Hollen: We’re Gonna Be A Party Nothing Like 1994

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) expressed optimism Thursday morning about his party’s position heading into the 2010 election year in the wake of several House Democratic retirements last month.

Four Democratic Members in competitive districts announced their retirements since mid-November, ringing alarm bells on Capitol Hill that the party in power could lose even more of its Members heading into the mid-term election cycle. With a few more Members still expected to announce their retirements this cycle, Van Hollen attempted to put his caucus in a historical perspective at a meeting with reporters.

“While there may be additional Democratic retirements…we absolutely do not expect a large surge on the order of 1994,” Van Hollen said, citing a 28 retirements in that year.

Van Hollen said on average there have been 14 Democratic retirements every cycle since 1996. So far this cycle, ten Democrats have announced that they will not run for re-election. Four Democratic Members in competitive districts — Reps. Dennis Moore (Kan.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.), John Tanner (Tenn.), Brian Baird (Wash.) — announced their intentions not to run for re-election in recent weeks.

And unlike 1994, Van Hollen claimed, he said his caucus is prepared for a very challenging cycle with programs for vulnerable members such as “Frontline.” The chairman also cited his committee’s almost three-to-one cash on hand advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“We have been working with our new members and our veteran members, our longtime members, to make sure that they are preparing for this cycle,” he said.

In anticipation of Van Hollen’s remarks, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) penned a memo to his colleagues in which his committee takes credit for pushing Democratic Members in competitive districts into retirement. Sessions cited his committee had recruited candidates in 36 of the 43 DCCC Frontline districts.

“For this reason, the NRCC has no plans to halt our efforts to target these senior members and force Democrats to defend seats that are increasingly leaning in our favor,” Sessions wrote to his colleagues.

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