The number of House Democrats who are not running for reelection this year has reached a 30-year high, reflecting dissatisfaction with the gridlock on Capitol Hill, the toxicity of partisan relations, and the challenges facing Democrats as they fight to maintain their slim majority in the lower chamber.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) announced this week that she will not compete for re-election, making her the 30th Democrat in the House to do so. That’s the most for the party since 1992, when 41 House Democrats announced their retirement when voters were electing Bill Clinton as their presidential contender.
The last time this happened was four years ago, during the 2018 midterm elections, when 34 House Republicans walked out. It was a foreshadowing of things to come: in a Democratic wave generally perceived as a referendum on then-President Trump, the GOP went on to lose 41 seats and the House majority.
The Democrats, led by Vice President Joe Biden, are in for a tough year this year. With Biden’s low approval ratings, a delayed policy agenda in Congress, nationwide redistricting, and the historical trend of incumbent presidents’ parties losing seats in midterm elections, the Republicans’ chances of reclaiming the House are growing.
According to Kondik, several states have yet to complete their new district lines, and many primaries will be held later this year than in previous years, with only one state (Texas) holding primary elections before May. He believes there will be more retirements as a result of the combo.
Only 13 incumbent House Republicans are not seeking reelection, while two others have quit in recent months to accept employment in the private sector, in contrast to Democrats. The majority of the seats are safe Republican seats. Another election watchdog, The Cook Political Report, has identified 39 Democratic seats as vulnerable heading into the midterms, compared to 19 Republican seats.
Despite the obstacles, Democratic leaders are putting on their best front, at least publicly, saying that Biden’s legislative record, which includes a large COVID-19 relief package and another $1 trillion for infrastructure initiatives, will sway voters in November.