Democrat who cited shutdown as impetus for House run ends bid

December 9, 2013

A Nebraska Democrat who opted to run for Congress after witnessing the government shutdown and showdown over the debt ceiling in Congress has pulled the plug on his bid, he announced Monday, dealing Democrats a blow in their long-shot bid to win back the House majority.

Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen, a top Democratic recruit against Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), told a local paper that that balancing all of his responsibilities with a congressional run proved untenable.

“It is the right time for moderate, practical-minded people to make a difference, but I've determined it's not the right time for me or my young family to run for national office,” Festersen told the Omaha World-Herald.

Festersen announced in October that he would challenge Terry, who had come under criticism for initially refusing to give up his pay during the shutdown. The Democrat's decision then was a reversal from his initial choice not to run. It was seen as a recruiting coup for Democrats and a testament to the political toxicity of the government shutdown for Republicans.

“Like most people, my frustration has grown by the day over the last month, with the government shutdown and the brinkmanship on the debt ceiling,” Festersen said. “Change is needed. And I felt it was my responsibility to be that change," the World-Herald quoted Festersen as saying in October.

Festersen's latest decision brings Democrats back to square one in a district they are eager to contest. It comes on the heels of polls showing that the momentum Democrats picked up during the shutdown was erased by the problematic rollout of Obamacare.

Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to win back the House majority in 2014.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Aaron Blake · December 9, 2013