Republicans are leaving office at a higher rate than in recent congresses, suggesting Democrats could pick up seats in the 2018 midterm elections. On Thursday it was Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, the influential chairman of the House judiciary committee.
Already, at least 25 Republicans have announced they are retiring, running for another office or resigning outright. They’re leaving from all over the map, from southern New Jersey to southern New Mexico.
Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to retake the majority from Republicans, who’ve had control of the House since 2011.
Republican leadership has acknowledged the issue.
“We’ve got to find better ways to empower people where they feel like this is worth their time,” Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, a former two-term National Republican Congressional Committee chair who met with several members to discuss retirements, told the National Journal in September.
But more retirements came shortly after — and then more after that.
While midterm elections are historically tough for the party of the President in power, it’s too early to tell how things will unfold next year. But seats are opening up all over the map. A few seats will be filled by Special Elections before next November. But most won’t.
The location of some of these seats has been pivotal during the push for health care reform and tax reform in 2017. Reps. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania were courted during the health care debates for their votes. Both members have high numbers of Medicaid enrollees in their districts. Property taxes are high in New Jersey, and LoBiondo objected to the repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction during the tax reform debates.
House retirements and resignations are not limited to any one part of the country
Includes announced resignations and seats opened because the holder said they will run for another office.
Some states are seeing higher numbers of open seats. And not all of the vacancies are coming from Republicans. Several seats have opened in Texas, including the blue 16th Congressional District, won by Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2016. He announced that he plans to run for Senate in 2018.
The campaign committees on both sides of the political aisle are eying the 23 Republicans defending districts that Hillary Clinton won and the 12 held by Democrats in districts that President Donald Trump won. These are seen as vulnerable seats to flip.
But many of the Republican retirements are occurring in congressional districts where Trump narrowly carried the vote, like New Jersey’s 2nd or Michigan’s 11th. Members from these districts could have faced tough reelections in 2018, when Democrats are expected to be strong performers, potentially regaining control of the House.
Republicans who say they will run for another office are more likely to come from districts where Trump performed well. These members vote in alignment with Trump at a high rate. They may count on continued support from his base supporters to propel them into higher office.
With few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats retiring largely vote along party lines. As parties, they have similar levels of support for the President’s agenda.