Retirement Musings: Part 2

Introduction

Last year, one of Split Ticket’s first articles focused on House retirements. Since then, numerous incumbents (though mostly Democrats) have hopped on the departure train heading out of Washington. With filing deadlines fast approaching across the country, most candidates have already declared their intentions. This follow-up article will take a brief look at the most notable retirements so far, while also providing some insight into the plans of those incumbents who have yet to decide their own paths.

Who’s retired so far?

As of this writing, 47 incumbents have declined to seek reelection in the fall. That means there have been more retirements this year than in 2020 (36), but not quite as many as in 2018 (54). 16 of that group of 47 (34%) members are retiring to run for higher office. Overall, more Democrats have announced retirement for the sake of retirement than have Republicans.

Perhaps indicative of the political direction ahead of President Biden’s midterm, 31 of the 47 (66%) retirees are Democrats. Given the impotence associated with minority status, exoduses by senior members of the majority party ahead of wave elections are not historically unprecedented. The jockeying behind the scenes thus far only confirms what political analysts have already expected for some time: Republicans are favorites to retake the House in November.

There have been some particularly notable retirees on both sides over the last few months. Let’s start with Democrats. Committee Chairmen John Yarmuth (2006), Pete DeFazio (1986), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (1992) will all be departing from Washington at the end of this Congress, taking 82 years of combined House service with them.

Yarmuth joins California Democrat Jerry McNerney in retirement. Both men defeated Republican incumbents in the 2006 wave. Assuming he wins reelection, Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney will be the only remaining Democrat to fall into that category. Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who flipped an open seat that same cycle, is also leaving the nation’s lower chamber.

Other long-time Democrats packing their bags include Jackie Speier of California (2008), Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania (1994), Bobby Rush of Illinois (1992), Albio Sires of New Jersey (2006), G.K. Butterfield (2004) & David Price of North Carolina (1986; 1996), Jim Langevin of Rhode Island (2000), Jim Cooper of Tennessee (1982; 2002), and Ron Kind of Wisconsin (1996).

On the GOP side, there have been fewer retirements for the sake of retirement. Members like Adam Kinzinger (2010) and Anthony Gonzalez (2018) have fallen out of step with the more conservative elements of the party, and would be unlikely to win reelection primaries. Tom Reed (2010) and Van Taylor (2018) have both been shamed by sexual scandals. Fred Keller (2019) and John Katko (2014) were both victims of unfavorable redistricting.

The most senior Republican to announce his departure this year is Kevin Brady of Texas. First elected to his Houston-area Congressional seat in 1996, Brady has since become an important fixture of the critical Ways and Means Committee. He has also been one of the most talented members of the Republican Caucus’s baseball team.

Between countless retirements and a potential Republican sweep of competitive general elections, the makeup of the House is expected to be greatly changed when the new Congress convenes in January.

Who’s left?

Now that we have taken a look at the incumbents who will not be returning to the Capitol next year, let’s delve further into the list of members yet to declare their intentions for the fall. With the Texas primary already behind us, and future contests right around the corner, the time for incumbents to make their reelection plans is fast fleeting.

In Arizona, two relatively-new GOP incumbents have not yet declared reelection bids. 5th district Congressman Andy Biggs (2016) and 8th district Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (2018) are nevertheless both expected to seek election again. If either incumbent were to retire, both of their districts would remain safe for the Republicans under the new lines.

In California, there is still a handful of incumbents that has yet to announce reelection. 2nd district Democrat Jared Huffman (2012) will almost certainly run again since he is young and aspires to become Natural Resources Chairman some day. Democrats Tony Cardenas (2012), Grace Napolitano (1998), Brad Sherman (1996), Jimmy Gomez (2017), Ted Lieu (2014), Linda Sanchez (2002), Nanette Barragan (2016), and Lou Correa (2016) have all yet to declare reelection bids. Democrats would be heavily favored to hold all of those seats in the event of further retirements.

Of that list of members, Grace Napolitano and Brad Sherman are probably the most likely to take the plunge into retirement given the length of their tenures. Napolitano is also an octogenarian widow, a reality that might factor into her decision.

Veteran Connecticut Democrats Joe Courtney (2006), Rosa DeLauro (1990), and Jim Himes (2008) have not announced reelection but remain expected to do so. Hartford Congressman John Larson at first appeared hesitant to seek another term, but has since decided to give reelection another go. Besides being dean of her state’s delegation, DeLauro currently chairs the Appropriations Committee.

Lisa Blunt Rochester has not announced reelection in Delaware, though she is heavily favored to do so. She is considered a shoo-in replacement for long-time Democratic Senator Tom Carper, should he retire in 2024.

In Georgia, four incumbents have not declared for reelection. The most serious potential retirement of the bunch is Atlanta Democrat Hank Johnson (2006). On the GOP side, 8th district Congressman Austin Scott (2010) and 11th Congressman Barry Loudermilk (2014) could be mulling departure. Although she has not made her intentions official, 5th district Democrat Nikema Williams (2020) will almost certainly seek a second full term.

Perhaps due to the arduous nature of the commute from Hawaii to Washington DC, both Democrats Ed Case (2002; 2018) and Kai Kahele (2020) have not decided on reelection. The latter incumbent is seriously considering a run for his state’s open governorship.

Despite receiving a favorably-drawn map in the latest redistricting cycle, five Illinois Democrats could be considering retirement. Chuy Garcia (2018), Brad Schneider (2012; 2016), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (2016) will probably announce reelection bids soon. Bill Foster (2008; 2012) and Jan Schakowsky (1998) are more likely candidates for retirement given their ages and tenures.

In Kansas, freshman Republicans Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner have yet to officially announce reelection but remain expected to do so. Both districts are reliable additions to the GOP column.

Louisiana Republican Julia Letlow, the newest GOP member of the Gret Stet delegation, is the only House member from the state to have officially announced reelection. That said, the other five members (including Minority Whip Steve Scalise) are expected to run again as soon as the new district lines are approved.

In New York, senior Democrats Jerry Nadler (1992), Nydia Velazquez (1992), and Brian Higgins (2004) are the most likely candidates for retirement. Other incumbents that have yet to announce reelection but will probably do so include Yvette Clarke (2006), Hakeem Jeffries (2012), Grace Meng (2012), and Joe Morelle (2018).

Oklahoma Republicans Tom Cole (2002) and Kevin Hern (2018) could retire this cycle. Despite his somewhat-advanced age, Cole will probably seek reelection because he is set to become chairman of the House Rules Committee. Tulsa Congressman Kevin Hern is rumored to be interested in joining the open race for Jim Inhofe’s Senate seat. Inhofe’s Chief of Staff Luke Holland, State Senator Nathan Dahm, and 2nd district Congressman Markwayne Mullin.

In the Old Dominion, long-time Democrat Bobby Scott (1992) is considering retirement. He was reportedly interested in running for Senate in 2016, when Tim Kaine was expected to be elected Vice President on the ticket with Hillary Clinton. He is currently the dean of the delegation.

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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