They maybe retiring, but they’re not done working

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio

For retiring politicians, nothing says, “That’s all, folks,” more than Election Day. It’s the first time in decades that they’re not on the ballot, not obsessively checking exit polls, not waiting for the final call of victory or
defeat.

“I’m going to take it easy,” said Rep. Barney Frank, who’s been running for the past 40 years.

On Monday, Frank and his husband, J im Ready, spent the night in Maine making calls in support of the state’s same-sex marriage referendum; on Tuesday morning, Ready voted in Maine, then they drove to Massachusetts, where Frank cast his vote. The two spent election night in Boston at the party for Joe Kennedy — who is running for the seat Frank is vacating.

Any regrets? None, Frank said.

“I haven’t got the emotional energy to do the job the way I want to do it.”

Instead, he’ll write books and become a public policy advocate.

After 16 years on the Hill, Rep. Dennis Kucinichisn’t on the ballot — but “I haven’t really noticed, because I’m a man in motion,” he told us Tuesday.

The representative from Ohio spent the day in Cleveland visiting polling places and gearing up for a fight on the alternative minimum tax when Congress reconvenes next week: “I’m in a sprint for the next six weeks of work.” And no, he’s not going anywhere — he just started Kucinich Action, a “movement-based” PAC. “In Washington, D.C., you just need a place to stand,” he said. “You don’t have to hold office to have impact.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman , who joined the Senate in 1989, skipped politics altogether: He spent Tuesday speaking to the Connecticut Technology Council.

“He’s approaching it as a private citizen, at least as far as the election goes,” his spokesman said.

But Kay Bailey Hutchison spent last weekend campaigning for Mitt Romney in Ohio, Nevada and Colorado. The senator, elected in 1993, flew from her home state of Texas to Boston Tuesday afternoon to be at his headquarters as the returns came in. After all, being out of office doesn’t mean being out of politics. Ditto for Sens. James Webb (retiring after one term) and Herb Kohl (leaving after four). Webb stumped for President Obama and Tim Kainein Virginia; Kohl pumped up the crowd at an Obama rally in Wisconsin.

Olympia Snowe is leaving Capitol Hill after 34 years because of partisan politics — she’s created Olympia’s List, a PAC designed for consensus-building, and joining the board of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, a nonpartisan advocacy group. And she’s writing a book, of course. On Tuesday, the moderate Republican and her husband cast their votes in Falmouth, Maine.

Sen. Ben Nelson spent the day back in Nebraska after endorsing Democratic candidate Bob Kerrey, who’s running to fill Nelson’s vacant seat.

Which brings us to our final point: Never say never. After a distinguished political career, former senator Kerrey called it quits and went into the private sector — relocated to New York, settled into marriage and fatherhood, served as president of the New School. But Nebraska politics called, and Kerrey moved back home after a decade — despite objections from his very East Coast wife.

So it was probably no surprise that Joe Biden is keeping his options open. The vice president met with reporters in Delaware after voting early Tuesday morning — the eighth time he’s cast a ballot for himself in a statewide election. Last time?

“No, I don’t think so,” he said with a big grin.

 
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