Veteran Representative Dan Burton, R-IN, has decided that seeking re-election wasn’t in his best interest. After winning his most recent re-election campaign by his slimmest margin in years (after being seriously challenged in his primary), Burton was undoubtedly prompted to take a second look at his prospects in an increasingly anti-incumbent climate. Although he cited his family health as the main reason he was discontinuing his career as a representative, Burton was lucky to have survived a challenge by John McGoff in 2008 and to have eked out a plurality of 30% in 2010 primary.
A bastion of conservatism, Burton had a 100% rating from the National Right-to-Life Council and was a fervent opponent to liberal gun-control efforts. He was very actively involved in several government crusades to determine the cause of autism (at times pointing the finger at the government itself, claiming vaccines were responsible for an “autism epidemic” – seems legit…). He could always be counted on to oppose President Bill Clinton, a man he described harshly as a “total scumbag.” Burton broke with conservatives in only a few areas, such as his support of Pakistan, but otherwise was a solid red vote in the house for his 20-year tenure.
Unfortunately, Burton was also a “career politician,” having been in the game since he first ran for a state office in 1967. He was well-known for going on expensive golf outings and has abused the free mail privileges of congressmen to send his constituents over $190,000 worth of mail. What’s more, his declaration that the US should use F18s to “crop dust” fields from aircraft carriers located “off the coast of Bolivia” in the war on drugs did nothing to help ameliorate the public’s perception of the brainless Republican… because Bolivia, being landlocked, has no coast.
So, given the pros and cons, how should a Republican feel about the capitulation of Dan Burton? The GOP will be losing a strong conservative voice in the House of Representatives for sure, but Dan’s 5th district is one of the reddest in Indiana, and Democrats are not likely to poach it. What’s more, Burton had been in congress for over two decades and, with congressional approval ratings in the single digits, some new faces might not be such a bad thing.