Democratic Retirements: Who's Left?

Introduction

Of the thirty Representatives not seeking reelection next year, 19 are Democrats. Eight of those 19 are running for higher office, but the rest of them are hopping on the retirement train for more traditional reasons. With Democrats widely expected to lose control of the House next year, most retirees are probably trying to avoid serving in the minority caucus. 

This is especially true for Committee Chairs like John Yarmuth (Budget), Peter DeFazio (Transportation), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (SST) who would be relegated to ranking member status by a control change. Other members like Cheri Bustos and Ron Kind faced closer-than-expected races last year and probably don’t want to risk losing in a difficult environment next year.

The number of Democratic retirements is already high compared to the last few cycles, so we decided to take a look at some remaining Democrats who could make the number even higher. A full list of Democratic retirements is provided at the end of the article. Enjoy!

Who’s Left?

This is not a complete list of members who have not announced reelection campaigns. For the sake of brevity, it is a list of incumbents that we consider highest on our watchlist.

Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) – Blue Dog Democrat Tom O’Halleran filed paperwork to run for a fourth term earlier this year, but he hasn’t officially announced his bid yet. His decision will probably be contingent on how the Grand Canyon State’s redistricting cycle pans out. Under the most recent non-tabled Commission plan, O’Halleran would be drawn into a Trump district with Republican colleague Paul Gosar; he would be unlikely to win.

Raul Grijalva (AZ-03) – There will certainly be a Hispanic-majority border seat for Tucson native Raul Grijalva to run in next year, but it is unclear if the veteran Congressman wants to stick around. The 73 year old Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee was first elected in 2002. If he retires, he would join three fellow Committee Chairs in doing so.

Mike Thompson (CA-05) – Mike Thompson has been in the House since 1999, and is currently high on our retirement watchlist. His current seat includes much of California’s thriving Napa Valley wine country. With redistricting uncertain, the 70 year old Blue Dog could very well decide to jump aboard the retirement train next year. 

Doris Matsui (CA-06) – Sacramento has been represented by Matsuis for decades. Doris came on the scene to replace her late husband Bob in a 2005 special election. At 77, Matsui remains on our retirement watchlist until further notice.

Jerry McNerney (CA-09) – Jerry McNerney, first elected in 2006, has had his fair share of tough races. But Democratic trends have made his Stockton-based seat bluer over the last decade, padding his reelection margins. Under his state’s draft redistricting plan the 9th remains relatively unchanged. A McNerney retirement wouldn’t jeopardize the proposed seat, even in a red wave.

Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) – The Speaker herself has not decided whether to run for reelection. First elected in a 1987 special election, Nancy Pelosi rose rapidly through her party’s leadership ranks. But it hasn’t been easy. Persistent intraparty opposition has not been enough to topple the 80 year old San Francisco titan, but it has forced Pelosi to issue some concessions to the more angsty members of her caucus. She has already promised not to serve as Speaker past 2022, so this would be her last hurrah anyway if she does decide to run. She may be spurred to reelection by her Bay Area allies Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, and Barbara Lee, all of whom were originally on our watchlist.

Jim Costa (CA-16) – One of the runner-ups to be Agriculture Committee Chairman after Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson’s loss was 16th district Democrat Jim Costa, first elected in 2004. He hasn’t faced a close race since his near-upset loss in 2014, but redistricting and his age might push him into retirement. Under California’s draft map, Costa would be double-bunked with fellow Democrat Josh Harder in a vast central valley seat. It’s unclear if he would surrender, but it’s certainly not out of the question.

Judy Chu (CA-27) – Democrat Judy Chu was first elected in a 2009 special election. She is one of multiple Democrats representing part of Los Angeles that have yet to announce reelection intentions for next year. At the moment, we think Chu will opt to stay on for another term.

Grace Napolitano (CA-32) – 84 year old Democrat Grace Napolitano was first elected to Congress in 1998 and has represented her current seat since 2013. The eastern Los Angeles County seat could be very well be open next year if Napolitano decides to bow out and enjoy the remainder of her life outside of the House.

Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) – Under California’s draft redistricting proposal, Democrats Lucille Roybal-Allard and Nannette Barragan would be double-bunked. Roybal-Allard is 80 and was first elected in 1992. It is highly possible she will abandon her Los Angeles County seat instead of facing off against the youthful Barragan in a potential primary contest.

Maxine Waters (CA-43) – First elected in 1990, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters is California’s final addition to our retirement watchlist. The prospect of losing her chairmanship to a control change, coupled with her advancing age, could lead her to rethink her priorities. At the moment, though, we consider her more likely to run again than Napolitano or Roybal-Allard.

Diana DeGette (CO-01) – Denver Democrat Diana DeGette was first elected in 1996 after Pat Schroeder’s retirement. We haven’t heard much from the rumor bin about a possible DeGette retirement, but we’re keeping her on our watchlist until she officially announces her intentions. She is currently the longest-serving member of the Centennial State’s Congressional delegation.

Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) – Jefferson County Democrat Ed Perlmutter was first elected to the House in 2006. His newly-drawn seat is still reliably Democratic, but no longer safe. It swings south to take in a lot of newer more-Republican territory that he has no connection to. If Perlmutter does retire, the eventual Democratic nominee would still be favored to hold the district.

John Larson (CT-01) – 73 year old Democrat John Larson has represented his Hartford-area Congressional seat since 1998. He is currently chair of the all-important Social Security Subcommittee on Ways and Means. Despite being less senior, it currently seems that Larson is more likely to retire than DeLauro.

Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) – New Haven Democrat Rosa DeLauro was first elected to Congress in 1990. Over the course of her career, the 78 year old has become one of the top Democrats in Congress. She currently chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee. We would be somewhat surprised if DeLauro chose to forgo reelection.

Hank Johnson (GA-04) – First elected in 2006, Atlanta Democrat Hank Johnson has yet to announce his plans for reelection. We currently expect him to run again, but he will remain on our watchlist out of an abundance of caution.

Bobby Rush (IL-01) – Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush was first elected in 1992. He would face no difficulties winning reelection to his majority black Chicago-based seat next year, but it remains to be seen if he even wants to run again. He seems like he could have one last hurrah, but a continued retirement train might convince him to change his mind.

Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02) – First elected in 2002, the Dutch’s seat could get a bit more competitive in redistricting. Boundary changes and potential minority party status have inundated Maryland political circles with rumors that the 75 year old Ruppersberger will retire. 

Steny Hoyer (MD-05) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer could retire next year, though he may join Speaker Pelosi in running for reelection one last time. The prospect of becoming Minority Whip again is probably not so appealing to the 82 year old Maryland lawmaker. Until we hear otherwise, Hoyer will remain on our watchlist.

Betty McCollum (MN-04) – First elected in 2000, St. Paul Democrat Betty McCollum could forgo reelection to another term next year. The 67 year old is the most senior Representative in the state’s delegation. McCollum would be one of the less expected retirees on our watchlist if she does decide to enjoy her golden years outside of the House.

Bennie Thompson (MS-02) – The dean of Mississippi’s Congressional delegation is Democrat Bennie Thompson. First elected in a 1993 special election to replace Mike Espy, he currently represents much of the black-majority Mississippi Delta. Over the summer, he was appointed to chair the January 6th Committee. As one of its senior members, a Thompson retirement would send shock waves through the Congressional Black Caucus.

Dina Titus (NV-01) – Nevada’s newly-drawn map places Democrat Dina Titus in a seat that is no longer safe Democratic. It seems plausible that the long-time Las Vegas Congresswoman could choose to retire next year to take the easy way out. Progressive challenger Amy Vilela is running in the primary.

Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) – 76 year old Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman was first elected to her Trenton-based seat in 2014. She is far more likely to retire than Pascrell and Pallone, both of whom are expected to eventually run for reelection. If she does run again, it could be her final term.

Nydia Velazquez (NY-07) – Democrat Nydia Velazquez was first elected to the House in 1992. She currently chairs the House Small Business Committee. At 68, she’s been a resilient member of the lower chamber. She is on this list out of an abundance of caution.

Jerry Nadler (NY-10) – 74 year old Democrat Jerry Nadler is another New York City Congressman on retirement watch. He is the dean of the state’s Congressional delegation and currently serves as Judiciary Committee Chairman. Potential minority party status would likely be the driving factor behind a retirement decision from him.

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) – Portland Democrat Earl Blumenauer is very similar to Denver’s Diana DeGette. Both were first elected in 1996 and are currently undecided on reelection. We would consider Blumenauer’s retirement a shock. He still seems to have his head in the game to the fullest degree.

Who’s Retiring

To Seek Higher Office

  1. CA-37 Karen Bass To run for Mayor of Los Angeles
  2. FL-10 Val Demings To run for Senate
  3. FL-13 Charlie Crist To run for Governor
  4. MD-04 Anthony Brown To run for Attorney General
  5. NY-03 Tom Suozzi To run for Governor
  6. OH-13 Tim Ryan To run for Senate
  7. PA-17 Conor Lamb To run for Senate
  8. VT-AL Pete Welch To run for Senate

To Retire

  1. AZ-02 Ann Kirkpatrick
  2. CA-14 Jackie Speier
  3. IL-17 Cheri Bustos
  4. KY-03 John Yarmuth (Budget Chairman)
  5. NC-01 GK Butterfield
  6. NC-04 David Price
  7. OR-04 Peter DeFazio (Transportation Chairman)
  8. PA-18 Mike Doyle
  9. TX-30 Eddie Bernice Johnson (Science, Space, and Technology Chairwoman)
  10. TX-34 Filemon Vela
  11. WI-03 Ron Kind

My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying 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, and fitness.

Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or harrisonwlavelle1@gmail.com

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