WASHINGTON — House Democrats who decided to retire rather than run for re-election say they don’t regret their decisions, even though there’s a chance their party won’t be bombed in November’s midterm elections.
“It’s time for me to retire and get back to practicing law and make some money,” retired Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) told The Switzerland Times. “We have a very strong bank in Colorado, and sometimes you have to let the bank go up.”
Democratic leaders brushed aside questions about the retirements and said they had a strong field of candidates.
“We have our team in place. It’s a great team, very confident, very capable,” Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told The Switzerland Times. “I think we’re going to win this cycle, contrary to what the experts thought.”
But polls and political forecasters say it’s clear that the high number of retirements, many of longtime office holders who didn’t want to meddle in tough reelection bids they seemed destined to lose, is an important part of why the Democratic Party is on track to to hold the House. incredibly narrow.
The president’s party has typically performed poorly in midterm elections during the president’s second year in office, and polls have suggested Democrats would be thrashed for much of this year. That undoubtedly played a part in the decisions of longtime members such as Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Rep. GK Butterfield (DN.C.), Rep. Jim Langevin (DR.I.) and Perlmutter retire. Democrats now face at least somewhat competitive races in all their districts.
Falling gasoline prices and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion rights, however, have led to more favorable polls for Democrats in recent weeks — but no lawmaker has tried to lift his retirement like NFL quarterback Tom Brady.
“Once they’ve decided it’s time to leave, it’s too late to reconsider, even though you might think they should reconsider,” Hoyer said.
Thirty-seven House Democrats have announced that they will not look for another home termthe most of any election cycle since 1996. Of these, 10 are in front of another office. Three Democrats took jobs in the Biden administration, one resigned to become Lieutenant Governor of New York and another resigned for a lobbying job.
Some of those deviations will essentially not affect House control. It is unlikely that the Democrats will replace Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), for example, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, will lose. But of the 32 Democrat-occupied seats rated by the Cook Political Report as sloppy or leaning toward Republicans, 13 were vacated by outgoing Democrats.
Perhaps the most notable example is Kind’s Seat, which covers much of rural southwest and western Wisconsin. It was already a swing district, and the GOP state legislature made it even more Republican after the reclassification.
A August poll of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is controlled by allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, found that Democratic state Senator Brad Pfaff earned just 38% of the voter support, compared to 51% for Republican Derrick Van Orden, who Kind had narrowly beaten in 2020.
Other retirements that could lead to tough races for Democrats include the retirement of Langevin, whose Rhode Island district is teeming with working-class voters and has drawn a high-profile GOP candidate in former Cranston mayor, Allen Fung. Bustos’ chair is now considered a toss-up. Democrats are increasingly confident in holding on to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) along the south coast of the Beaver State.
Democratic strategists recognize that retirements make life more difficult. In addition to losing a candidate with years or even decades of community ties and built up name identification, incumbents typically have significant war chests to use in campaigns. For example, Kind has more than $1 million in his campaign account, compared to about $180,000 for Pfaff.
In some places, that money gap means outside Democratic groups, including the DCCC and House Majority PAC — a super PAC controlled by allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — need to spend extra money in these districts rather than helping elsewhere.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the DCCC, said it is common for more members to retire in a year like 2022 after state governments redrawn district boundaries. But he suggested there may have been too many retirements.
“As far as it was based on assumptions about what’s going to happen, of course you never know until the voters speak,” Maloney said. “And at this point, of course, we are very encouraged by the strong response to the loss of 50 years of reproductive freedom and holding the MAGA movement accountable.”
One retirement has already worked for Democrats: After Antonio Delgado, who held a seat representing the Catskills and parts of the Hudson Valley, left the House to become New York’s lieutenant governor, the party won the special election to replace him . Rep. Pat Ryan (DN.Y.), who focused his campaign on abortion rights, is now a contender for reelection in a slightly different district in November.
A handful of GOP retirements have helped Democrats. Rep. John Katko (RN.Y.), one of the few Democrats to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the January 6, 2021 uprising, saw his seat around Syracuse become significantly more Democratic after the realignment. After retirement, Cook Political Report considers his race a gamble.
Whichever party wins a majority of seats in the House gains almost complete control of the House, and members say life on the minority side can be miserable as the majority guides the entire legislative process, from committee hearings to deciding which bills to pass. the floor of the House.
Rep. David Price (DN.C.), who is 82, said it was his time to go no matter what.
“You know, you’re not doing this forever,” Price said. “I wouldn’t deny that it’s hard to leave. But I do think I made the right decision. And it really wasn’t primarily a matter of calculating the climate in my neighborhood.”
Langevin said he wanted a better work-life balance and less travel. Legislators typically fly to their districts every weekend.
“I’ve been driving pretty hard for the past 22 years and getting on a plane, that much travel isn’t as easy as it once was,” said Langevin, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. He said he loved his job and called his 21-year career an honor.
“When you leave this place, you do it with mixed feelings; nobody just leaves and is excited about it.”