As Democratic Massachusetts Rep. William Delahunt formally announced his retirement Friday, state Republicans predicted they have one of their best shots in more than a decade at reclaiming a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Currently, all of the state's House members are Democrats, but Republicans are looking to take back Delahunt's seat in the 10th District, which includes Cape Cod and the South Shore.
Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown won 61 percent of the vote in Delahunt's district in a special election in January to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"It's the best district in the state for a potential Republican takeover," said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University.
"It has a disproportionately large elderly constituency, a little bit more Republican registration and orientation ... there's definitely a possibility for a takeover."
Republicans planning to run for the seat include state Rep. Jeffrey Davis Perry of Sandwich and former state treasurer Joseph Malone.
Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, a Democrat, is also planning to run, as is state Sen. Robert O'Leary, a Democrat from Barnstable who has served in the Legislature for the past decade.
Michael Goldman, a political consultant who is advising Keating, said the Republicans will not have an easy time in the race.
"The problem for the GOP is the public wants services, they want government to be there for them," said Goldman.
"When we talk generically about government being too big and out of control, that's an interesting message, but if they say they are not going to deliver for this district, they are not going to win."
The last two Massachusetts Republicans to serve in Congress were Peter Torkildsen, who represented the 6th District, and Peter Blute, who represented the 3rd District. Both served two terms and lost re-election bids in 1996.
State Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said see sees a "great opportunity" for a Republican to win in Delahunt's district, citing its older population, Brown's win there, and the high state and national unemployment rate.
"There is a lot of energy, people who are excited," Nassour said.
Delahunt, 68, said Thursday that he had been considering leaving Congress for several years but was talked out of it by Kennedy, who urged him to stay on to help pass President Obama's first-term agenda.
Delahunt received a standing ovation from a crowd of fellow Democrats at Quincy City Hall — including Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, and his nephew, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II — as he told supporters he would not seek an eighth term.
Delahunt said Kennedy's death in August caused him to reflect on his own mortality and desire to spend time with his family and friends.
"My decision at its core is personal, not political," he said. "It has nothing to do with the current political climate."
He said he hopes what he called "the cynicism of the moment" in politics would not deter others from serving or bipartisan cooperation.
Joseph Kennedy said he believes the 10th District is "very much in play" now because of voter anger and frustration over the nation's lingering financial problems, including high unemployment.
"I think ultimately (a Democrat) will win, but I think it's going to be a very tough race," he said.
Delahunt has come under criticism recently in Massachusetts for his handling of a 1986 shooting by a University of Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues last month. Amy Bishop shot and killed her 18-year-old brother in 1986, when Delahunt — then the local district attorney — accepted the findings of local and state police that the shooting was accidental.
Keating, the current district attorney, is handling a new investigation of the 1986 shooting.
Delahunt's decision to step down comes amid a string of recent retirements in the House, including Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, who will not seek re-election.
Delahunt, a liberal voice, was a key player on Coast Guard issues in Congress. He also helped broker a deal to bring discounted oil to the U.S. from Venezuela.
This program aired on March 5, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.