Oct. 27, 2011
BOSTON — Just last week, Congressman John Olver, 75, was out raising money in Holyoke, Mass. But on Wednesday, Olver announced he would retire at the end of his current term.
Boston.com political editor Glen Johnson and Tufts University professor Jeffrey Berry discussed Olver's change of heart in an October 27 conversation with Jared Bowen, guest host of "The Emily Rooney Show."
In Johnson's analysis, "A lot of things came together that I think made it very easy for [Olver] to make this decision where it seemed once impossible for him to make."
(Johnson wasn't surprised by the seeming turnaround, saying, "It’s smart politics for any politician to always indicate that they’re seeking re-election. As soon as you give any indication that that may be a question, you almost immediately become a lame duck.")
For one, Olver's wife is undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. On top of that, the Massachusetts Legislature Special Joint Committee on Redistricting is expected to release its new Congressional map in the next week, Johnson said — and politics-watchers expect it will combine Olver's district with the Worcester-centered district currently represented by James McGovern.
"He could foresee a strong challenge," Johnson said. "There was a very strong chance that he was going to end in a runoff with Jim McGovern."
Berry agreed that Olver would have faced an uphill road to re-election. “He was being thrown into a district that’s really based in Worcester," Berry said. "it was likely, very likely he was going to lose.”
McGovern praised Olver after the announcement: "The country is a better place because of his keen intellect, impeccable integrity, and fierce commitment to economic and social justice," he said in a statement. "I am honored to call him my colleague, and proud to call him my friend. I look forward to working with him over the next year in Congress and will continue to champion those causes we both hold dear.”
Johnson also thought that Olver might have taken one for the team. With this decision, the 75-year-old had the opportunity "to help spare all his colleagues, potentially, some of their own redistricting pain," Johnson said. It's much easier for politicians to cut the state's Congressional districts from 10 to nine when one of the current 10 officeholders subtracts himself from the picture.
As for Alan Khazei, who dropped his bid this week for the U.S. Senate seat held by Scott Brown, he didn't have a chance of being elected, Berry thought. "This is a Warren-Brown Senate race. The Democratic primary is a formality," he said.
WGBH NEWS: KHAZEI DROPS OUT; OLVER TO RETIRE