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April 13, 2011, 1:35 a.m.

Polit­ics and Prose book­store own­er Carla Co­hen died 10/11 at her home in DC of cholan­giocar­cinoma, “a rare can­cer of the bile ducts.” She was 74.

Co­hen foun­ded her book­store in ‘84, call­ing it Polit­ics and Prose “be­cause, she said, she wanted ‘a Wash­ing­ton-sound­ing name’ that was not pre­ten­tious.”

“Polit­ics and Prose be­came a corner­stone of the com­munity, a hum­ming salon for the wonky and the lit­er­ary alike and a neigh­bor­hood in­sti­tu­tion for those look­ing for a cup of cof­fee, a com­fort­able chair or just a good book re­com­mend­a­tion.” The store “cham­pioned loc­al au­thors and journ­al­ists and be­came a des­tin­a­tion for writers com­ing to town, who of­ten at­trac­ted long lines that stretched out onto Con­necti­c­ut Av­en­ue.” Bill Clin­ton, Kath­ar­ine Gra­ham, Ju­lia Child, Tom Wolfe, Jun­ot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri “are just a few of the au­thors who gave read­ings at the store.” Re­cently, Co­hen and co-own­er Bar­bara Meade “put the store up for sale.”

Co­hen is sur­vived by her hus­band, daugh­ter, son, three broth­ers, two sis­ters, two grand­chil­dren, and her moth­er (Park­er, New York Times, 10/11).

Thanks­giv­ing and the winter hol­i­days are a peace­ful time after the mad rush of last-minute le­gis­lat­ing, but the time away can give mem­bers a chance to think of what comes bey­ond Wash­ing­ton. The bi­en­ni­al re­tire­ment sea­son, which runs from Thanks­giv­ing through the end of Feb­ru­ary, can wreak hav­oc on either party’s plans to take con­trol of the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. It’s an un­pleas­ant time for strategists on either side plot­ting to seize con­trol of the lower cham­ber.

Per­haps the first real in­dic­a­tion that Re­pub­lic­ans had a shot at win­ning the House in 2010 came between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas in 2009, a peri­od in which Demo­crats wor­ried over re­tire­ment an­nounce­ments from Reps. Den­nis Moore, Bri­an Baird, Bart Gor­don, and John Tan­ner. (Re­pub­lic­ans even­tu­ally won all four of those seats.) In fact, last cycle, 15 of the 19 mem­bers who quit polit­ics al­to­geth­er an­nounced they were leav­ing between Nov. 23, when Moore made his an­nounce­ment, and Feb. 27, when then-Rep. John Linder said he would quit.

This year, re­tire­ments have already taken their toll on Demo­crat­ic chances to win back the House. The party will struggle to hold seats be­ing va­cated by Reps. Mike Ross, D-Ark., Jerry Cos­tello, D-Ill., Dan Boren, D-Okla., and Joe Don­nelly, D-Ind. Re­pub­lic­ans will have an easi­er time de­fend­ing their open seats, though Demo­crats have won races in re­cent years in places like Montana and North Dakota, where in­cum­bent Re­pub­lic­ans are run­ning for Sen­ate.

In total, sev­en Demo­crats have an­nounced they will re­tire, while eight are run­ning for an­oth­er of­fice. Sev­en Re­pub­lic­ans are step­ping down, all of them seek­ing an­oth­er elec­ted po­s­i­tion.

That leaves the per­petu­al par­lor game of re­tire­ment-watch­ing fo­cused on a num­ber of seats that could be­come va­cant in the next few months, after mem­bers re­flect on their fu­ture. The lists of po­ten­tial re­tire­ments are small, but they can mean the dif­fer­ence in win­ning a ma­jor­ity.

Demo­crats are not cer­tain Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., will run again, even though his cam­paign has said sev­er­al times he will act­ively seek an 11th term; he faces health con­cerns that have kept him away from Wash­ing­ton this year. Rep. Gab­ri­elle Gif­fords, D-Ar­iz., is still re­cov­er­ing, and while her friends and al­lies have made sure she’s got the money she needs to run, she has not made a de­cision, a po­s­i­tion her hus­band re­it­er­ated in an in­ter­view this week.

Re­pub­lic­ans hope to force sev­er­al oth­er Demo­crats to­ward the exits, in­clud­ing Reps. John Bar­row, D-Ga., Lois Capps, D-Cal­if., Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and Col­lin Peterson, D-Minn. But those hopes may be for naught; all four in­sist they will run for an­oth­er term.

Reps. Brad Miller, D-N.C., and Jim Math­eson, D-Utah, have dif­fi­cult de­cisions to make now that their dis­tricts have been dra­mat­ic­ally re­drawn. Miller will face Rep. Dav­id Price, D-N.C., in a primary. Math­eson, on the oth­er hand, said talk of his re­tire­ment “is just wish­ful think­ing on the part of Re­pub­lic­ans.” He has not ruled out a run for gov­ernor.

The Demo­crat­ic re­tir­ees will put even more of a dent in what’s left of the con­ser­vat­ive Blue Dog caucus. Once a pil­lar of the Demo­crat­ic ef­fort to re­take the House, the caucus was decim­ated in the 2010 elec­tions; now, with Ross and Boren leav­ing and Shuler and Bar­row fa­cing dif­fi­cult reelec­tion fights, if they ul­ti­mately do run, there is a good pos­sib­il­ity the four lead­ers of the Blue Dog Co­ali­tion will not re­turn to the 113th Con­gress.

Add in Math­eson’s pre­dic­a­ment and the de­part­ing Don­nelly, and at least half a dozen ad­di­tion­al Blue Dogs are either pos­sible re­tir­ees or in elect­or­al danger. Reps. Jason Alt­mire, D-Pa., Le­onard Boswell, D-Iowa, Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., and Ben Chand­ler, D-Ky., could all face tough reelec­tion bids next year.

On the GOP side, rad­ic­ally re­drawn dis­trict lines have left Rep. Dav­id Dreier, R-Cal­if., ef­fect­ively without a seat; the new map gives him much more Demo­crat­ic ter­rit­ory to de­fend. Sim­il­arly, new lines have Demo­crats eye­ing Reps. Ro­s­coe Bart­lett, R-Md., Elton Gal­legly, R-Cal­if., Cliff Ste­arns, R-Fla., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y. Now that Bart­lett’s dis­trict in­cludes parts of Mont­gomery County, he is one of Demo­crats’ top pickup op­por­tun­it­ies. Iron­ic­ally, if Young and Ste­arns quit, that might ac­tu­ally help Re­pub­lic­an map­makers in Flor­ida, where the party is try­ing to carve out space for GOP in­cum­bents. Gal­legly tried to re­tire in 2010 but was talked in­to run­ning again. Hanna has had health prob­lems and could be­come a real re­tire­ment risk if he’s drawn in­to a dis­trict with Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y.

Re­pub­lic­ans on Cap­it­ol Hill would not be stunned if Reps. Howard Coble, R-N.C., Don Young, R-Alaska, Jerry Lewis, R-Cal­if., or Ral­ph Hall, R-Texas, re­tire; all four are over 75, and they rep­res­ent solidly red dis­tricts. Many ob­serv­ers say Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., is near­ing re­tire­ment, though he has sched­uled a cam­paign kick­off event for Jan. 26 and will be on the bal­lot next year, a spokes­man said.

Both Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats have put a great­er em­phas­is in re­cent cycles on en­cour­aging po­ten­tial re­tir­ees to make their de­cisions soon­er rather than later, in or­der to give po­ten­tial re­place­ments the time they need to get on the bal­lot. But throughout the coun­try, can­did con­ver­sa­tions with fam­il­ies will in­ev­it­ably lead to yet an­oth­er tu­mul­tu­ous re­tire­ment sea­son, one that will leave both parties scram­bling to re­cruit new can­did­ates in the early months of 2012.

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