– The Washington Times – Tuesday, January 25, 2022
House Democrats are privately urging colleagues to forgo their retirement plans and tough it out in what’s expected to be a brutal election year for the party, hoping they will help fend off an anticipated Republican takeover in November.
With 28 House Democrats set to retire this year, including several in toss-up districts, lawmakers told The Washington Times that they are pleading with them not to give up without a fight.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said he has been trying to persuade Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind and other Democrats to delay their decision to bow out in highly vulnerable swing districts.
“I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and I said, ‘Please reconsider.’ Nobody had joy when Ron Kind announced he was not going to run,” Mr. Cleaver, Missouri Democrat, said in an interview.
Rep. Lou Correa, California Democrat, said he spoke to several members about rethinking their retirement announcements, though none would reconsider.
“It’s clear by the time they announce that they made their decision,” Mr. Correa said.
He blamed the increasingly polarized environment on Capitol Hill for promoting the growing number of retirements.
“Most of them think it’s just too much battle up here,” Mr. Correa said. “I mean, I asked myself the same thing three weeks ago. Do I run for reelection?”
Democrats are also facing an uphill battle in midterm elections that historically favor the party that does not control the White House. Further dimming prospects for Democrats are President Biden’s rapidly sinking approval ratings.
A House Democratic aide said it’s no shock that members are having private conversations with their retiring colleagues to try and persuade them to run for reelection.
“That wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the kind of thing that’s happening,” the aide said. “It’s also the perspective of [Democratic National Congressional Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney] or whoever else is making those asks that if they’re fans of those people and they had success, it makes total sense that they’d want them to stick around.”
The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.
The retirements particularly hurt districts that have become more susceptible to Republican takeovers this year like Mr. Kind’s district and Rep. Cheri Bustos’s district in Illinois’ rural Quad Cities area.
Mr. Kind said his decision to retire was solely a personal one, and he hasn’t been swayed by requests to reconsider his decision.
He has held his southwestern Wisconsin seat for nearly 25 years and is considered one of the most centrist Democrats in his caucus.
“Everyone knows at the end of the day, it’s such a personal decision for the member whether they want to run again or even run for the first time,” Mr. Kind told The Times. “I think leadership and the DCCC know it’s an inherently personal decision between the member, their family, and whether they want to do it for the rest of their lives.”
Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said retiring members in districts that may be flipped next year were in a difficult position because of redistricting in some states, and retirement announcements are unavoidable.
“Every election cycle, you have people who are ready to transition to a new phase in their life, so I’m not shocked by the number of retirements,” Mr. Seawright said.
Prominent Democrats who have announced their intention to give up their House seat include longtime Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, California Rep. Karen Bass who is running for mayor in Los Angeles, and former presidential candidate Tim Ryan, who is running for Senate in Ohio.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat considered to be highly vulnerable this year, also announced her decision not to run for reelection.
Mrs. Murphy is a member of the party’s centrist Blue Dog Coalition and also serves on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot.
The House GOP’s campaign arm said it made sense for vulnerable Democrats, 60 of whom are being targeted by the committee, to blow out of the midterms.
“The House Democrats calling it quits are making the smart choice. Vulnerable Democrats can do that or lose next fall,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Mike Berg.
By comparison, about a dozen House Republicans have announced their intent to retire, including Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger and California Rep. Devin Nunes.
Rep. John Katko, New York Republican, also announced his retirement this month.
Mr. Katko is the third Republican who supported former President Donald Trump’s impeachment to opt out of reelection, behind Mr. Kinzinger and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio.
• Mica Soellner can be reached at [email protected].