Retiring House Democrats have no regrets despite improving mid-term outlook

WASHINGTON — House Democrats who decided to retire rather than run for office say they don’t regret their decisions even though there’s a chance their party won’t be bombarded in the midterm election. – November mandate.

“It’s time for me to retire and get back to practicing law and earning money,” retired Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) told HuffPost. “We have a very strong bench in Colorado, and sometimes you have to let the bench go up.”

Democratic leaders brushed off questions about retirements, saying they have a strong field of candidates.

“We have our team in place. They’re a great team, very confident, very capable,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told HuffPost. “I think we are going to win this round, contrary to what the experts thought.”

But polls and political prognosticators say it is clear that the high number of retirements, including many long-serving civil servants who did not want to bother with tough re-election bids they seemed destined to lose , is a key part of why the Democratic Party’s path to holding the House remains incredibly narrow.

The president’s party typically does poorly in midterm elections in the president’s second year in office, and polls have suggested for most of this year that the Democrats would be beaten. This no doubt played a role in the decisions of longtime members like Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Rep. GK Butterfield (DN.C.), Rep. Rep. Jim Langevin (DR.I.) and retired Perlmutter. Democrats now face at least somewhat competitive races in all of their districts.

Falling gas prices and the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the federal abortion law, however, have led to more favorable polls for Democrats in recent weeks – but no lawmaker has tried to step down like the quarterback. -NFL guard Tom Brady.

“Once they decide it’s time for them to leave, it’s too late to reconsider, even if you think they should reconsider,” Hoyer said.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) sits on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on June 24, 2022.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Thirty-seven House Democrats have announced that they will not seek another term in the Housethe most of all election cycles since 1996. Of these, 10 are candidates for another position. Three Democrats have taken jobs in the Biden administration, one quit to become lieutenant governor of New York and another quit for lobbying work.

Some of these departures will have essentially no impact on the control of the House. Democrats are unlikely to lose the seat of Rep. Karen Bass (D-California), who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, for example. But of the 32 seats held by Democrats classified as falling or leaning to Republicans by the Cook Policy Report, 13 were vacated by retired Democrats.

Perhaps the most notable example is the Kind Headquarters, which covers much of rural southwest and western Wisconsin. It was already a swing district, and the state’s GOP legislature made it even more Republican after redistricting.

A August poll of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is controlled by allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, found that Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff had only 38% voter support, compared to 51% for Republican Derrick Van Orden, whom Kind narrowly beat in 2020.

Other retirements that could lead to tough races for Democrats include the retirement of Langevin, whose Rhode Island district is rife with working-class voters and has attracted a high-profile candidate from the GOP in former Cranston Mayor Allen Fung. Bustos’ siege is now considered a draw. Democrats are feeling increasingly confident about retaining Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D-Ore.) seat along Beaver State’s southern coast.

Democratic strategists recognize that pensions make life harder. Beyond the loss of a candidate with years or even decades of community ties and accumulated name identification, incumbents typically have substantial war chests to use in campaigns. Kind, for example, has more than $1 million in his campaign account, compared to about $180,000 for Pfaff.

In some places, that cash shortfall means outside Democratic groups, including the DCCC and House Majority PAC — a super PAC controlled by allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have to spend extra money in those districts. instead of helping elsewhere.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the DCCC, said it’s common for more members to retire in a year like 2022 after state governments redrew district boundaries . But he hinted there may be too many retirements.

“To the extent that it was based on assumptions about what was going to happen, obviously, you know, you never know until voters speak up,” Maloney said. “And right now, obviously, we’re very encouraged by the strong reaction to the MAGA movement’s loss of 50 years of reproductive freedom and empowerment.”

A retreat has worked for Democrats before: After Antonio Delgado, who represented a seat spanning the Catskills and parts of the Hudson Valley, left the House to become Lieutenant Governor of New York, the party won the special election to replace him. Rep. Pat Ryan (DN.Y.), who has focused his campaign on abortion rights, is now preferred to run for re-election 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 Jan. 6, 2021, uprising, saw his seat centered around Syracuse become much more Democratic after the redistricting. After his retirement, Cook Political Report views his run as a toss-up.

Whichever party wins the majority of seats in the House has almost total control of the House, and members say life on the minority side can be miserable since the majority runs the entire legislative process, committee hearings deciding on bills to be submitted to the House.

Rep. David Price (DN.C.), who is 82, said it was time to go no matter what.

“You know, you don’t do this forever,” Price said. “I would not deny that it is difficult to leave. But I 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 return home to their districts each weekend.

“I’ve been driving my body pretty hard for 22 years and getting on a plane, traveling as much as it is isn’t as easy as it used to be,” said Langevin, who is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. He said he loved his job and called his 21-year career an honor.

“Leaving this place, you do so with mixed emotions; no one leaves and is delighted.


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