Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 25, 2008

Congressman Jim Walsh, Republican from Syracuse, To Retire After 10 Terms

Next time you think voting and other political action might not mean much, remember this day: the day Congressman Jim Walsh quit.

Representing a wide swath of central New York, Walsh has been as strong a shoo-in incumbent as you'll find. Just three years ago, he won re-election with 91% of the vote.

In 2006, however, he was challenged by Dan Maffei, an ex-aide to Patrick Moynihan and Charles Rangel. The margin of victory this time was razor-thin, at 3,400 votes, and not determined until ten days after the election.

Until that race, Walsh was in lockstep with the Bush administration across the board, including the war in Iraq. The election sent Walsh a message. He moved away from Bush on the war, and actually opposed the surge last year.

But it was too little too late. Maffei will run again this year, and Walsh saw the handwriting on the wall.

"I've never seen anything like it," Walsh said of his change in fortune. "There was a real tide in the country, and it was tough to buck for all of us. It was very anti-war, and very anti-President Bush, in upstate New York. Two years ago, I had no opponent. Go figure."

We admire Mr. Walsh for his candor in stating his reasons for retirement. (There was, of course, some of the usual balderdash about wanting to spend more time with his family.) Perhaps the attendant frankness was meant as a wake-up call to his party. It also serves as an affirmation for political activists. Your voice matters.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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