Dem 50
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GOP 49
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Missed It By That Much?, Part II: House Retirements

It's not yet official, unless you trust Laura Ingraham (you shouldn't). However, it looks like the Republicans are going to recapture the House by a small margin. This being the case, Democrats are naturally going to look carefully at the things that may have cost them a seat here, and a seat there, and thus control of the lower chamber.

On Monday, we had an item about the New York Democrats, who flew too close to the sun while gerrymandering the state's district map, and came crashing to the ground. They shot for three more Democratic seats and, thanks to the new map imposed by a judge, it looks like the Empire State will end up with the Republicans picking up three more seats instead. The blue team probably couldn't have gotten away with such an aggressive gerrymander, but they probably could have made D+2 stick. So, it's fair to guess that the misstep cost the Democrats 4 House seats. If the House ends up 219-216 for the Republicans, then the new Republican Speaker can thank New York for his or her shiny new gavel.

That said, there are other possible directions to point the finger. Reader J.W. in Hillsboro, OR, sent us this question: "If most of the Democrats who quit because of the red wave hadn't retired, would the Democrats still control the House?" That seems an interesting question to look at, so let's see if we can come up with an answer.

To start, here's our list of House retirements, with an added column that shows the current disposition of each seat:

Representative Party District PVI Reason for retirement Result
Kevin Brady Rep TX-08 R+28 He hit the term limit for chairing the Ways and Means Committee Rep hold
Louie Gohmert Rep TX-01 R+25 Running for Texas AG Rep hold
Billy Long Rep MO-07 R+24 Running for the seat that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is vacating Rep hold
Vicky Hartzler Rep MO-04 R+20 Running for the seat that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is vacating Rep hold
Ted Budd Rep NC-13 R+20 Running for the seat that Sen. Richard Burr (R-MO) is vacating Dem flip
Frederick Keller Rep PA-12 R+20 Pennsylvania is losing a seat, and he was odd man out Dem flip
Mo Brooks Rep AL-05 R+17 Running for the seat that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is vacating Rep hold
Jody Hice Rep GA-10 R+15 Running for Georgia Secretary of State Rep hold
Trey Hollingsworth Rep IN-09 R+13 He is keeping his promise to serve only four terms Rep hold
Bob Gibbs Rep OH-07 R+12 His rural district became somewhat competitive Rep hold
Adam Kinzinger Rep IL-16 R+10 Reps don't like Trump critics Rep hold
Lee Zeldin Rep NY-01 R+8 Running for governor of New York Rep hold
Anthony Gonzalez Rep OH-16 R+8 He voted to impeach Trump and is now in Trump's crosshairs District abolished
Devin Nunes Rep CA-22 R+6 Left to run Donald Trump's social media company Pending
Tom Reed Rep NY-23 R+6 Got enmeshed in a #MeToo-type scandal Rep hold
Van Taylor Rep TX-03 R+6 Adultery Rep hold
Ron Kind Dem WI-03 R+4 Tired of close elections, says he's "run out of gas" Rep flip
Antonio Delgado Dem NY-19 R+3 Agreed to become (temporary) lieutenant governor of New York Rep flip
Conor Lamb Dem PA-17 R+2 Running for the seat that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is vacating Dem hold
Ann Kirkpatrick Dem AZ-02 R+1 Her seat could be vulnerable after redistricting Rep flip
Stephanie Murphy Dem FL-07 EVEN Probably due to the possibility of her district being made redder Rep flip
Tim Ryan Dem OH-13 D+1 Running for the seat that Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is vacating Dem hold
Charlie Crist Dem FL-13 D+2 He is running for governor Rep flip
Cheri Bustos Dem IL-17 D+3 She badly botched her job as chair of the DCCC Dem hold
John Katko Rep NY-24 D+3 Trump is out to get him and the district will probably get bluer Rep hold
Tom Suozzi Dem NY-03 D+3 Running for governor of New York Rep flip
Kathleen Rice Dem NY-04 D+4 She is a moderate in a caucus increasingly dominated by progressives Rep flip
John Yarmuth Dem KY-03 D+6 At 75, he prefers playing with his grandson to politics Dem hold
Ed Perlmutter Dem CO-07 D+6 He's 68, and says it's time to pass the baton to the next generation Dem hold
Ted Deutch Dem FL-22 D+6 Leaving to become CEO for the American Jewish Committee Dem hold
Jerry McNerney Dem CA-09 D+7 He's 70 and ready to move on to new things Dem hold
Peter DeFazio Dem OR-04 D+9 At 74, and after 18 terms, he's had his fill Dem hold
Jim Cooper Dem TN-05 D+9 Gerrymandering turned his blue district red Rep flip
Filemón Vela Dem TX-34 D+10 His seat will definitely be vulnerable after GOP-led redistricting Dem hold
Val Demings Dem FL-10 D+12 Going to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Dem hold
Alan Lowenthal Dem CA-47 D+13 He is 80 and doesn't want to be in the minority Pending
Mike Doyle Dem PA-18 D+13 He is frustrated that the House Democrats can't agree on anything District abolished
Peter Welch Dem VT-AL D+15 He is running for the seat that Sen. Pat Leahy (D) is vacating Dem hold
Kai Kahele Dem HI-02 D+15 He is running for governor Dem hold
Jim Langevin Dem RI-02 D+16 He has had his fill after 11 terms Dem hold
David Price Dem NC-04 D+17 Republicans will probably radically change his district Dem hold
George Butterfield Dem NC-01 D+17 Republicans changed his district to be D+1 Dem hold
Bobby Rush Dem IL-01 D+22 At 75, wants to focus on his ministry Dem hold
Albio Sires Dem NJ-08 D+27 He said: "The whole atmosphere in Washington is awful." Dem hold
Jackie Speier Dem CA-14 D+28 Four decades in politics is enough Dem hold
Eddie Bernice Johnson Dem TX-30 D+29 She'll be 86 on Election Day 2022 Dem hold
Anthony Brown Dem MD-04 D+29 Running for AG of Maryland Dem hold
Brenda Lawrence Dem MI-14 D+30 The new district maps were not to her liking District abolished
Lucille Roybal-Allard Dem CA-40 D+33 She's 80 and her district has changed shape, though still very blue Rep flip
Karen Bass Dem CA-37 D+36 Running for mayor of Los Angeles Dem hold

If we simply count up the flips, then the Democrats grabbed two seats that were vacated by Republicans, Republicans grabbed nine seats that were vacated by Democrats, and there are two retiree seats still up in the air. So, the Democrats are anywhere from minus five to minus nine thanks to retirements.

With that said, it's not so simple as merely counting the flips. First, this was a redistricting cycle, which means that some of the flips (e.g., CA-40) had little or nothing to do with the sitting member's retirement, and everything to do with the new district having a very different constituency. Second, some folks retired because they were trying to move on to bigger and better things, not because they feared a red wave. Third, some members may not have been fully honest about their reasons for retirement. Someone who says they want to focus on their ministry might not want to admit they fear defeat. Someone who says they don't want another tough election contest may know that oppo researchers have dug up dirt that will see the light of day if they run again, and want to avoid that. Fourth, there's no guarantee that even a sitting member could have held on to a purple district. And fifth, there's no way to know what districts some of the members in heavily redrawn states would have chosen if they'd tried to stick with the House.

Anyhow, trying to read between the lines, it looks to us like Ron Kind, Antonio Delgado, Ann Kirkpatrick, Stephanie Murphy and Alan Lowenthal were the Democrats whose decision was strongly influenced by fears of a red wave, and whose seats are lost (4) and/or could be lost (1). But one or two of them probably would have lost even if they had tried to keep their seats. So, that means the blue team probably bled 2-3 seats to fears of a red wave that did not materialize. They also gained one or two seats from Republicans who decided they didn't have the heart to remain in the fray (Frederick Keller and possibly Devin Nunes). That's a net of one or two seats for the Republicans. So, we are inclined to conclude that red-wave retirements probably didn't cost the Democrats the House, at least not all by themselves. (Z)

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