Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Four More House Members Call It Quits (and a Fifth Hints at It)

Announcement season is upon us. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) has announced that he will not run for reelection. His OH-02 district is R+25. With victory in the general election certain, a messy multiway GOP primary is probable. Wenstrup is deeply conservative and is only 65, so he could probably hang around another 20 years if he wanted to. He didn't give a clear reason why he's had it. He used to be a podiatric surgeon, operating on feet and ankles. He could go back to that or just retire.

Another member throwing in the towel is Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). His WA-06 district is D+6. That means it will probably stay Democratic, but that is far less certain than Wenstrup's district. Kilmer is only 49 and could probably serve decades more if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to. He is a moderate, pro-business Democrat and can pull in Republican votes, so reelection isn't the problem. He is also on the House Appropriations Committee, so he has a relatively powerful position. Before getting elected to the House, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. He can probably go back there or work as a lobbyist and make a lot more than the $174,000 that members of Congress make.

Meanwhile, a fellow who has really had enough is Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY). He held a press conference this weekend, in his hometown of Buffalo, and said: "Congress is not the institution that I went to 19 years ago. It's a very different place today. We're spending more time doing less. And the American people aren't being served." Then he said he's quitting, and he's not even going to wait until the end of his term to do it (though he did not specify exactly when he will stand down). At the moment, his district, NY-26, is D+9, so he is likely to be replaced by a Democrat whenever the special election is held. Exactly what the PVI will be when and if the New York legislature draws new maps (see above), we do not know, but if they have to err on the side of making a district a little dicey, they tend to do that in districts not occupied by a long-serving incumbent. So, NY-26 could end up much closer to EVEN than it is right now.

Moving on, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) made it official that she will not run for reelection to the House because she will run for governor of Virginia. Her VA-07 district runs from Manassas down to the northern Richmond suburbs and from the Potomac River on the east to Skyline Drive on the west. The PVI is D+1, which means Democrats will have to fight hard to hold it. While they are sad to see her leave a swing district open, she could be a strong gubernatorial candidate in 2025. She got beat to the punch by Richmond mayor Levar Stoney (D), who recently announced his run for governor. Spanberger is a 44-year-old white woman. Stoney is a 42-year-old Black man. Virginia had a Black governor 1990-1994, Doug Wilder, but has never had a female governor. It should be a real barnburner. In any event, it's more fallout from the underwhelming lack of muscle shown by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) in last week's elections.

And finally, it's nowhere near official yet, but it is predictable, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about such things openly unless you're 90% of the way there. So, we think it's worth taking note that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave an interview this weekend where he said he really wasn't sure if he was interested in running for reelection. He's clearly still angry about being cashiered, he has little hope of returning to the top of the mountain, and it's not easy to go from being the most important member of Congress to being a backbencher (although he could ask Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, for tips). So, it sure looks like the greener pastures of the private sector are beckoning. McCarthy did not make clear if he was willing to abandon ship mid-term, but if he decides his career in politics is over, we would guess he wouldn't linger on until January of 2025. Should there be a special election and/or an election for an open seat, McCarthy's district (CA-20) is R+16, so it will remain in Republican hands.

You can keep track of retirements using the Congress: retirements link in the menu to the left of the map above. Currently the retirement situation favors the Republicans. Seventeen Democrats and eight Republicans have already said that they are calling it quits next year, creating an open-seat election in Nov. 2024. (Higgins' seat will be filled by a special election in early 2024 so it will have an incumbent next November.) The Republicans are in districts with PVIs from R+10 to R+25. None of these are in much danger, even as open seats. In contrast, ten of the Democratic districts fall in the range R+2 to D+8. Any of these could flip. For the Democrats, having 10 open-seat districts potentially in play while no Republican open-seat districts are in play is not good news. Of course, the Biden 18 are Republicans in districts Joe Biden won, so all of those are in play, along with the Trump 5 districts (where a Democrat represents a district that Trump won).

This situation is somewhat surprising since the Democrats' chances of flipping the House look reasonably good. Normally, it is members of the party that expects to be in the minority who run for the hills. Now we seem to have the reverse. Still, many announcements tend to come after the holidays, so the picture in February could be quite different. (V & Z)

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