Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan won't seek re-election

ESCANABA, Mich. — Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat and a leading abortion opponent in Congress who ended up infuriating antiabortion groups for his support of a compromise in the last hours of debate over landmark health care legislation, said Friday that he will not seek a 10th term in November.

Stupak has represented a giant district spanning the frozen top of Michigan since 1993 and had been expected to win re-election easily, despite the controversy around his role in the health care debate.

But even before Stupak officially announced his decision, a chorus of opponents rushed to take credit for helping to push him out of the midterm campaign and to portray his departure as an opening blow in what they contend will be more political fallout for those who supported the health care law.

In a frigid lakeside park here in Stupak's district, a leader of the Tea Party Express, which has been broadcasting anti-Stupak television ads this week, called out to a crowd, some carrying "Flush Bart" signs: "Let that be a warning to the rest of the rats on the USS Marx!"

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that has been broadcasting radio commercials against Stupak, both said they had helped force his move.

But at a news conference here in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Stupak, 58, disputed them all. He said a number of factors had led to his decision to retire, a possibility he said he had been weighing for several years. Among the reasons, he said, was the fact that he had fulfilled a promise he made when he first ran almost two decades ago to help reform the health care system.

"I'm proud to have helped bring it across the finish line," he said. Well aware of his opponents' crowing, Stupak discounted any notion that he had been driven away.

Until Friday, an array of little-known challengers — a Democrat and several Republicans — were lined up against Stupak. But his departure creates a good chance for Republicans to pick up his seat. "All bets are off now," said Bill Ballenger, a political analyst in Michigan. "This turns into a national political battle."

Stupak had little national profile before the health care debate. He led a group of antiabortion Democrats who held out against the legislation until President Barack Obama agreed to sign an executive order ensuring that federal funds would not be used for abortions. That transformed him from the bane of the bill's supporters to the bane of its foes.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Lawmakers report more threats of violence

The number of serious threats, including death threats, against members of Congress jumped in the past three months during the heated debate over the new health care law. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, who monitors security in the House and the Senate, said lawmakers reported 42 incidents in the first three months of this year, nearly three times the 15 cases during the same time last year. The health care legislation was one of the most partisan and divisive issues Congress has taken up since the civil rights battle a half-century ago. Democrats and a few Republicans reported receiving threats.

Associated Press

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan won't seek re-election 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 12:24am]

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