Wayne Allard Retiring, Seat Open in 2008

Colorado Senator Wayne Allard, a Republican, announced yesterday that he will not run for re-election in 2008, citing his pledge to serve no more than twelve years.

“I just didn’t think I could back away from the (term limits) commitment. It is a matter of integrity and keeping your commitments. I have never wavered on that,” Allard told the Rocky Mountain News.

Wayne Allard Photo Sen. Wayne Allard announces his intention to honor his term limits pledge at a news conference Monday. Appearing with his wife, Joan, at a press conference at the state Capitol, Allard said, “The people of Colorado placed their trust in me based on a promise I made to them and I am honoring that promise. In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday’s newspaper, I believe a promise made should be a promise kept.”

Allard, 63, faced friendly pressure from fellow Republicans who wanted him to run again. That’s because open-seat contests can be vastly more difficult — and costly — for a party to defend. But he also was tugged by the promise he made in 1996 to serve no more than two U.S. Senate terms.

The term limits pledge was a relic of the so-called “Republican Revolution” of the 1994 election, when the GOP swept to power promising to change the ways of Washington. As time passed, some one-time leaders of the movement, including Rep. Tom Tancredo, and others who signed pledges, such as former Rep. Scott McInnis, abandoned their promises in the name of continuing public service. Others, such as former Rep. Bob Schaffer, lived up to their pledge and went home.

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There’s a long list of potential candidates for Allard’s seat, including Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and various Republicans, such as outgoing Gov. Bill Owens, Tancredo, McInnis and Schaffer.

Even before Allard’s decision, the Cook Political Report and the Washington Post political blog had called Colorado’s 2008 Senate contest one of the top races to watch. An anticipated retirement by Allard was one reason, but analysts also point to Democratic gains in Colorado and other Western states.

The 2008 contest will happen in a presidential election year, and some Democrats are urging their party to pick a presidential nominee who reflects Western values. If so, that could give the party’s Senate candidate some coat-tails to ride.

Allard should be respected for honoring his pledge, even though doing so makes it even harder for his party to retake the Senate in the next election.

The pledge itself, though, was ill advised. Term limits may well be a sound idea but only if they are imposed across the board. Applying them unilaterally, whether by individual action or state-by-state legislation, simply increases the power of Members who are not bound by them. In turn, this gives citizens of states with very senior Members much more leverage in public policy and obtaining pork barrel projects.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kent G. Budge says:

    Assuming term limits really are desirable, this is a classic prisoner’s dilemma for voters: If every district chooses legislators committed to term limits, we all win. If a few districts decline to choose legislators committed to term limits, they win at everyone else’s expense. So almost all districts decline to pick legislators pledge to term limits, and we all lose.

    Assuming term limits are desirable. I’m not sure why this would be so. Experience is considered a plus in almost any other job category, and I’ve yet to see anyone compile empirical evidence showing that senior legislators are more corrupt or corruptible than junior ones.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Kent,

    The argument isn’t so much that seniority corrupts but that a system which encourages career politicians is corrupting. Further, because of the role of seniority in committee assignments and so forth, those who have been around a long time wind up with inordinate power to rob the public treasury blind for the benefit of their constituents and reelection chances. Committee chairmen simply wouldn’t have the power that they now do if all Members were term limited to twelve years; their juniors simply wouldn’t put up with it outside the context of a wait your turn system.