Legendary Rep. Joseph Moakley, a beloved Democrat representing a heavily Irish district in South Boston, is leaving Congress after 15 terms after announcing he has "an incurable form of leukemia."
The dean of the Massachussetts congressional delegation held a press conference this afternoon in Boston to announce he would not run for re-election.
"In short, the prognosis is not very good. So today I'm announcing I'm serving my last term in Congress and I will not be seeking re-election in the year 2002," Moakley said.
The news came as a shock to the constituents of the 73-year-old congressman. He had battled prior health problems, undergoing a liver transplant in 1995 that that saved his life, but recently said he was feeling great.
The leukemia diagnosis came in a routine medical exam last week.
"I went in for a checkup and the guy said 'Don't buy any green bananas,'" he told the Boston Globe. "I went in and I had a shortness of breath. I didn't think much of it. I thought I was just a few pounds overweight."
Boston Mayor Tom Menino told ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, "It's a real shocker."
"It's a huge loss to us and his congressional district and to the state of Massachussetts," Menino said.
Moakley, who lost his wife Evelyn to a brain tumor just five years ago, has enjoyed a long and successful career in politics. He was elected to the state House of Representatives at age 25. From there, he went on to serve in the state Senate and on the Boston City Council before first winning a congressional seat in 1972.
Beloved by Constituents
In Boston, one of his constituents, Paula Jackson, was upset by the news.
"Every time I'd go to vote I'd go to vote for him," Jackson said. "I mean he really is a wonderful man, and it's too bad, we're losing all the old-timers. The newtimers don't have a clue."
Another constituent, Richard McAleer, said, "it's a shame."
"He's been a good guy, worked hard, always there for the people and we're gonna miss him," McAleer said. "He's the last of a breed."
Moakley's departure, while a personal blow to the Democrats, is not likely to lose them the seat in the House. The district is heavily Democratic and Moakley's replacement seems likely to be chosen in the Democratic primary.