Two senior House Democrats have announced that they would not seek another term in Congress. While this may appear to be good news on the surface for Republicans, in fact it doesn’t alter the balance of power in the lower chamber.
The recent retirement announcement of the powerful Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmouth won’t change the math in the House either.
North Carolina’s David Price and Pennsylvania’s Mike Doyle this week both announced their plans to retire.
Those congressmen represented safe Democratic districts. Even with redistricting, their seats were expected to remain blue. But a couple of other members who’ve announced their retirement or are running for another office might represent opportunities for Republicans to gain seats.
Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois is a prime target of the GOP in 2022, and she decided to retire rather than face a bruising re-election fight. Wisconsin’s Ron Kind represents another very competitive swing district and didn’t even wait for Republicans to gerrymander the end of his career.
But GOP retirements and Democratic redistricting shenanigans will probably cost Republicans a few seats of their own. Anti-Trump Representative Adam Kinzinger has been gerrymandered into oblivion as Illinois Democrats made his re-election virtually impossible by drawing a district that will force him to run against a far left incumbent. And New York Democrats are promising a massacre of Republicans, reducing the number of GOP-held seats from five to three.
A GOP takeover is a long way from being a done deal. But it’s looking better all the time.
Doyle is retiring from a solidly blue, Pittsburgh-area seat. He already had a primary challenger, and his departure will likely draw other big-name Democrats. Pennsylvania is losing a seat in redistricting and has a GOP-led legislature, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can veto any Republican-drawn map.
Price represents a safe Democratic seat in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area. The state is gaining a seat in redistricting, and Republicans have total control over the process.
To make matters infinitely worse for Democrats, their fundraising is badly lagging behind the GOP.
But party leaders are most worried about departures by younger members in tough seats who would both hurt morale and force national Democrats to drop millions to defend their districts.
Some Democrats privately pointed to Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a three-term rising star from the Orlando area, who raised just $140,000 in the third quarter, down from over $825,000 the previous quarter. But people close to Murphy said those second-quarter figures were larger than usual because she had been planning to announce a Senate bid — though the decision was ultimately thwarted when another Orlando Democrat, Rep. Val Demings, unexpectedly jumped into the race.
Individual Democrats are outpacing Republicans in some races, but overall, Republicans have been able to stay ahead of Democrats — especially in competitive districts.
In truth, neither party will have problems raising money. However, it may come down to a question of enthusiasm. Democrats will lose their turnout advantage in an off year election when interest is low among key constituencies like minorities and young people.
And that may be enough to tip the race in several competitive districts.