The Thanksgiving Special: Retirement Musings (Part 1)


Part 1 – How are the latest replacement primaries shaping up?

Most of these primaries are still in limbo because of redistricting, so we’ll largely be focusing on the candidates. Our reporting will be most salient in seats with solidified boundaries. This part of the series will focus on potential successors in open seats. The second installment will revolve around the ongoing retirement watch by looking at members who could jump on the train out of Washington. 28 incumbents are retiring so far, so we’ll try to get a brief word in on each race.
AZ-2 (DEM) Ann Kirkpatrick – Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick has been a reoccurring figure in Grand Canyon State politics. She has served three separate stints in the House: 2009-2011, 2013-2017, and 2019-Present. Kirkpatrick spent most of her career representing iterations of the 1st district, but moved south to win the open 2nd in 2018. The most recent non-tabled Arizona Redistricting Commission proposal puts most of the 2nd’s territory in a renumbered, marginal 6th district. State Representative Daniel Hernandez, a one-time aide to Gabby Giffords, has been endorsed by many sitting Congresspeople and the Latino Victory Fund. Much of his legislative seat would lie outside of the new district, though similar circumstances did not stop Kirkpatrick in 2018.
CA-14 (DEM) Jackie Speier – After more than a decade of service, Democrat Jackie Speier is leaving Congress. As we’ll discuss in part two of this Thanksgiving special, many of her California colleagues could decide to join in the retirement festivities. (We saw a mass Republican exodus in Texas last year) State Assembly Speaker pro tempore Kevin Mullin seems like the leading Democratic contender so far. Mullin worked for Speier before beginning his Assembly stint in 2012. The Daily Journal, a local publication, wrote that Mullin has “the highest name recognition and general goodwill of any peninsula officeholder other than Speier.” If Speier ends up endorsing Mullin, he would probably attain de facto successor status almost a year before the November election.
CA-37 (DEM) Karen Bass – Once talked about as a potential Vice Presidential nominee, Democrat Karen Bass is now retiring to run for Mayor of Los Angeles. Her current district includes prominent communities like Culver City and Inglewood in addition to portions of Los Angeles itself. The field here is entirely contingent on redistricting, though we presume many Democrats will be interested in ‘locking down’ what should continue to be a safe seat. California lost a district in the most recent reapportionment cycle.
FL-10 (DEM) Val Demings – Florida has been the scene of numerous different redistricting proposals in recent weeks. All of them include an Orlando-based seat resembling the current 10th district. Incumbent Democrat Val Demings is retiring next year to challenge Senator Marco Rubio. Final boundaries might be up in the air, but it is reasonable to assume that the current map in the general sense will persevere. Former prosecutor Aramis Ayala seems like a potential successor. State Senator Randolph Bracy is also running. Demings has yet to make an endorsement, though she might eventually prefer being succeeded by a minority woman.
FL-13 (DEM) Charlie Crist – If recent boundary proposals are any indication, the Pinellas-based 13th should remain competitive after redistricting. Incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist is bowing out of his marginal seat to make another run for Governor. (He served one term as a Republican Governor in the early 2000s but lost to Rick Scott as a Democrat in 2014) There seem to be two main Democratic candidates so far: state Representatives Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner. 2020 Republican nominee Anna Paulina Luna is running again. This seat will be a top GOP target next year.
IL-17 (DEM) Cheri Bustos – The new 17th district is still based in northwestern Illinois. It is much more Democratic than its predecessor, but not overwhelmingly so. In a strong Republican environment this seat would be ripe to change hands. Democratic Congresswoman and ex-DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos is retiring after a closer-than-expected 2020 victory. Besides potential reelection fears, Bustos is probably not so keen on the prospect of serving in the minority caucus. Rockford state Senator Steve Stadelman seems to be the Democrat that everyone is waiting to hear from. There is already a crowded primary for the seat. 2020 Republican nominee Esther Joy King is seeking a rematch. This district could be the closest in Illinois next year.
KY-03 (DEM) John Yarmuth – Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth is calling it quits after nearly two decades in Congress. His Louisville-based seat has been reliable for Democrats since he unseated incumbent Republican Anne Northup in 2006. One hot primary prospect is Morgan McGarvey, the state Senate Minority Leader. At just 41, McGarvey could be a lifer if he secures the seat next year. Yarmuth has not endorsed a successor as far as we know.
MD-04 (DEM) Anthony Brown – Democrat Anthony Brown is retiring from his Prince George’s County-based seat to run for Attorney General. He previously served as Lieutenant Governor before losing a bid for the state’s highest office to Larry Hogan in 2014. The Old Line State’s Congressional boundaries could be greatly altered in redistricting. Former Prince George’s County State Attorney Glenn Ivey and state Senator Jazz Lewis are two Democrats running to replace Brown. Ivey has received numerous endorsements from Prince George’s County local officials. Lewis has the backing of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who has held the nearby 5th district since 1981.
NC-01 (DEM) G.K. Butterfield – Veteran Democrat G.K. Butterfield is retiring next year after well over a decade in Congress. Butterfield had a surprisingly-competitive reelection race last year and his new district is significantly less Democratic. The current 1st has been renumbered as the 2nd on the Tar Heel State’s new map. It is expected to yield one of next year’s closest Congressional races. The most notable Democratic name thus far is former state Senator Erica Smith. Smith lost last year’s Senate primary and recently dropped out of next year’s race to take advantage of the new House opening. State Senator Donald Davis and state Representative James Gailliard add to the growing field. 2020 Republican nominee Sandy Smith is running again in the Biden +2 seat.
NC-04 (DEM) David Price – The Dean of North Carolina’s House delegation is hopping aboard the retirement train too. Democrat David Price, a legend of the so-called Research Triangle, has served two stints in Congress. First elected in 1986, he suffered a surprise loss in 1994 but won his seat back two years later. The 81-year old Congressman has watched his home region undergo a developmental boom coinciding with shifts toward the Democrats. Price’s Durham-based seat has been renumbered as the 6th district on the new map. Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, Orange County state Senator Valerie Foushee, and state Senator Wiley Nickel are all running in the open contest.
OH-13 (DEM) Tim Ryan – Long-time Congressman and 2020 Presidential candidate Tim Ryan is retiring next year to make a long-shot bid for the Buckeye State’s open Senate seat. The Trumbull County Democrat’s current district includes working-class Youngstown and the surroundings of Akron. Much like IN-02 and MI-05, trends have made the 13th less hostile to Republicans. Last year, President Trump became the first Republican since Nixon in 1972 to win Mahoning County (Youngstown). State Republicans used Ryan’s retirement to scrap his seat, drawing a significant portion of it into the new 6th. Spanning the Mahoning Valley, the once-Democratic 6th is safe for Congressman Bill Johnson next year. 2020 GOP nominee Christina Hagan is already running.
PA-17 (DEM) Conor Lamb – Democrat Conor Lamb is running for Senate next year. His Allegheny-based seat is open at a time when the Keystone State is preparing to shed a Congressional seat. Redistricting remains uncertain here. Lamb won a very Republican seat in a 2018 special election before getting ‘shored up’ in his current district. He beat fellow incumbent Keith Rothfus in November 2018 and had a close reelection against Sean Parnell last year. The fog of uncertainty will lift here as soon as we get the new district lines.
PA-18 (DEM) Mike Doyle – Veteran Pittsburgh Democrat Mike Doyle is retiring after almost thirty years in Washington. The exact boundaries and numbering of Doyle’s territory will be uncertain until redistricting concludes, but we can be certain that some kind of Democratic Pittsburgh seat will emerge from the current fog. Progressive state Representative Summer Lee is running here. Similar Democrats like Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Cori Bush have achieved primary success in recent years. (All four of them won against incumbents, but Lee would be in an open seat)
TX-30 (DEM) Eddie Bernice Johnson – Sometimes primary contests get decided well before any voters head to the polls. That seems like it could be the case in Eddie Bernice Johnson’s 30th district. The Dallas Democrat’s retirement has opened the door for youthful state Representative Jasmine Crockett, who announced her campaign yesterday. EBJ has endorsed Crockett. Other candidates may still enter the field, but it seems like Dallas may have found a rising star Democratic lifer to carry on Johnson’s legacy.
TX-34 (DEM) Filemon Vela – Democrat Filemon Vela is retiring in the 34th district, the bluest of the new Rio Grande Valley seats (15, 28, and 34). His decision gave 15th district Democrat Vicente Gonzalez the chance to improve his reelection prospects by jumping districts. A red wave could make this district a bit closer than it normally would be in a general election, but an outright Republican victory is probably out of the question barring any cataclysmic developments.
VT-AL (DEM) Pete Welch – Vermont’s lone Congressman is the anointed successor to long-time Democratic Senator Pat Leahy. Welch will almost certainly be in the Senate come 2023. Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray and state Senate President Becca Balint are both possible replacements. At 75, Welch would be one of the oldest freshman Senators in history. Potential Senate openings in 2024 and 2028 could continue the At Large seat’s status as a springboard to the upper chamber.
WI-03 (DEM) Ron Kind – Much like his Driftless Area colleague Cheri Bustos, long-time Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind is on his way out next year. He had a closer-than-expected reelection in his Trump seat last year and probably wouldn’t have been too excited to battle for an uncertain reelection in 2022. State Senator Brad Pfaff is running in the Democratic primary to replace him. 2020 GOP nominee Derrick Van Orden is trying again. Redistricting is still up in the air in the Badger State.
AL-05 (REP) Mo Brooks – Republican Mo Brooks is making his second career bid for Senate next year. He failed to make the runoff in the 2017 special election. The Madison-based 5th was not significantly altered in redistricting. Former state Senator Paul Sanford and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong are both possible replacement candidates. The 5th will continue to be a reliably Republican seat.
GA-10 (REP) Jody Hice – Like many Republicans, Congressman Jody Hice is retiring to seek higher office. He is challenging incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from the right. At first glance, former Congressman Paul Broun or state Representative Timothy Barr might seem like the most formidable primary candidates. Trucking executive Mike Collins, the primary runner up for the open seat in 2014, might have the connections and the capital needed to lock up the nomination next year; he is the son of former Congressman Mac Collins. If anything, last year’s clown car primaries in the 9th and 14th showed us that we cannot take outcomes for granted in Georgia politics this far in advance.
IL-16 (REP) Adam Kinzinger – Adam Kinzinger has arguably become a pariah in the GOP caucus, alienating many of his colleagues in a similar manner to Wyoming’s Liz Cheney. Illinois’s new map double bunks Kinzinger with 18th district Republican Darin LaHood. Had he decided to run for reelection, he almost certainly would’ve lost the primary. His retirement makes LaHood’s reelection path in the new 16th even easier than it already would’ve been.
MO-04 (REP) Vicky Hartzler – Republican incumbent Vicky Hartzler is running for Senate after a decade in Congress. She beat Democratic Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton in the GOP’s 2010 wave and has not faced a competitive election since. Redistricting should not change the fact that her west central Missouri seat is blood red. The primary field is already packed. It includes two legislators, two county-wide officeholders, and two additional candidates. State Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden is preparing to announce his campaign. The 39 year old would be the highest profile candidate in the race so far.
MO-07 (REP) Billy Long – Republican Billy Long is also making the jump to the crowded Senate race. Long has represented his heavily-Republican southwestern Missouri state seat since Roy Blunt left it to run for the upper chamber. Three main candidates are contesting the seat as of this writing: state Senator Mike Moon, state Senator Eric Burlison, and former state Senator Jay Wasson. The eventual GOP primary winner should have no issue winning the final iteration of this seat in November.
NY-01 (REP) Lee Zeldin – New York’s redistricting is still uncertain, but Republicans should be able to compete in at least one Long Island seat come next year. Incumbent Republican Lee Zeldin won his seat in 2014 and is retiring to run for Governor, though his chances may have deflated with Cuomo out of the race. Crowded primary fields seem to be emerging on both sides. If the new 1st district is anything like the current one, the GOP should have no problem holding it.
NY-23 (REP) Tom Reed – The Empire State’s second open seat is upstate. Republican Tom Reed announced his retirement after revelations of sexual improprieties emerged earlier this year. (He had already committed to a term limit pledge) Even if Democrats pursue an aggressive gerrymander, Republicans should have a safe district like the 23rd upstate. The GOP field could get crowded here.
NC-13 (REP) Ted Budd – Republican Ted Budd is running for Senate next year, leaving his seat to fellow incumbent Richard Hudson. Most of the 13th district territory is located in the renumbered 10th. Hudson should have no issues for reelection under the new lines.
OH-16 (REP) Anthony Gonzalez – Two-term Republican Anthony Gonzalez is retiring next year after voting for former President Trump’s second impeachment. His vote drew primary opposition from Trump aide Max Miller, an opponent Gonzalez could’ve very well lost to. The new seat is numbered 13 and combines Akron, the southwestern Cleveland suburbs, and Medina. It is a narrow Biden seat, which could pose problems for someone like Miller if 2024 is a neutral environment. He should be able to win a competitive race next year. Ohio’s boundaries will be redrawn for the 2026 cycle.
TX-01 (REP) Louie Gohmert – Long-time Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert is running for Attorney General of Texas. His successor will probably be Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, a candidate with a similar background to the incumbent. The rural northeastern seat is safe for the Republicans.
TX-08 (REP) Kevin Brady – Republican Kevin Brady is retiring next year. His district has been renumbered 2. The GOP-heavy seat is based north of Houston. It is unclear who will run to succeed him so far.
Note: When we say things like “Madison-based” we are usually referring to counties rather than actual communities.
District numbers listed next to incumbents are current and do not always correspond to seats on new maps.
A second installment of this series will be coming out soon. It will take a look at potential members of Congress that could still decide to retire.
(There are quite a lot of them!)

My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying political science and international studies at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, aviation, and fitness.

Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or