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Leaving the House: Michigan's Ehlers and California's Watson

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

HOUSE

Two seats will be in contention

Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection in November, and Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) will do the same Thursday, according to an aide.

Ehlers became the 17th Republican to decide to make this term his last. His announcement came days after his wife, Johanna, suffered a heart attack, and one day after conservative state Rep. Justin Amash said he would challenge the eight-term veteran.

In the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won by about 2,000 votes over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Ehlers's district, which is centered in Grand Rapids. The seat went strongly for George W. Bush, however, in 2004 (59 percent) and 2000 (60 percent).

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has long eyed Ehlers's seat, some Michigan Republicans say. She is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket led by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

Watson -- who, like Ehlers, is 76 -- is the 13th House Democrat to decide against seeking reelection this cycle. She did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. An aide said Watson would announce her impending retirement Thursday in her suburban Los Angeles district.

The district is heavily Democratic, having given Obama 87 percent of the vote in 2008. Watson has been reelected by huge margins since she first took the seat in a 2001 special election.

The Los Angeles Times reported that state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D) is expected to announce that she will run for Watson's seat.

-- Chris Cillizza and Ben Pershing

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