What to make of Del. Clarke Hogan’s decision not to run for reelection? The South Boston Republican is only in his fourth term, he’s ascended in power quickly, he’s young, and his voting record is loyally Republican. He serves on both the Rules and Appropriations committees, which are good assignments. There’s been talk—and maybe it’s just talk—about him challenging Rep. Tom Perriello here in the Fifth District. So why bail on the way up?
Hogan cites the bad economy and his need to attend to his lumber business. And I don’t doubt that has a lot to do with it. Powerful members of the legislature can manage to line up some nice jobs for themselves, but it requires the ability to leave one’s current job. Now is the worst possible time to sell a business that supplies materials for home construction. If he lacks a family member to whom he can turn the business over, Hogan may well have had no choice.
But all of that must be weighed against the alternative. Hogan’s current alternative is to be among the leaders of a dwindling majority that’s likely to soon be a minority, leaving him the king of nothing. Were the alternative something more tempting, the math might work out a bit differently. Politicians seldom resign at the zenith of their power to “spend more time with their children”; it’s only on their way down, or when they know bad news is on its way. (Witness the mass retirements of congressional Republicans since Democrats took control in the 2006 elections.) Being in the minority is no fun.
Maybe Hogan’s actions would be the same if Republicans enjoyed the sort of majority that they did in 2001, when he was first elected. But I suspect not. If Democrats take the house in November—especially if they win and don’t immediately promise bi- or nonpartisan redistricting—expect 3-5 more Republicans to throw in the towel at the end of next year’s session.