With the U.S. House contest to replace Jim Ramstad just getting underway, the retiring Minnesota Republican says party leaders have encouraged him to run again.
Ramstad, 61, says he still plans to retire in January, 2009, at the end of his ninth term. But his chief of staff released a statement acknowledging that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the leadership and many other groups have encouraged him to run.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The statement, coming in response to an inquiry Tuesday from the Star Tribune, added that Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jim has no plans to seek reelection.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In a separate statement, the staffer, Dean Peterson, also said that Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jim has been overwhelmed by the huge number of Minnesotans urging him to reconsider, but he has no plans to run to run for re-election.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Peterson said Wednesday that neither he nor Ramstad would comment further.
Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), acknowledged RamstadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s account, but said there was no Ã¢â‚¬Å“top-downÃ¢â‚¬Â effort to keep Ramstad in the race.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If grassroots Republicans in Minnesota support the idea of Congressman Ramstad running for reelection, then Chairman [Tom] Cole [R-Okla.] seconds that sentiment,Ã¢â‚¬Â Spain said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The NRCC trusts local Republicans to decide who they believe would make the best candidate for Congress, not the other way around.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is a member of the NRCCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s executive committee. A Kline spokesman declined to say whether he has been involved in efforts to ask Ramstad to reconsider his retirement, which he announced last month.
Another Republican source in Washington said that, for now, party leaders are operating under the assumption that Ramstad is not running, and they are reaching out to prospective candidates.
Some analysts have noted that while RamstadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Third Congressional District in the Twin CitiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ western suburbs is still fairly safe Republican territory, RamstadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to postpone his retirement could save the cash-strapped Republican congressional committee as much as $1 million to defend the seat, a factor that could be huge in a tough presidential election year.
What do you think? Should Jim Ramstad, a political moderate who says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“burned outÃ¢â‚¬Â from the weekly Washington commute, stick around for the sake of his party?