27

I was listening to Pod Save America and they were talking about the upcoming mid-terms and the "fact" that 46 house Republicans are retiring. According to them, that is unusual.

  1. Are there 46 House Republicans retiring?
  2. Is that unusual?

Edit: The exact quote is:

"Forty-six. Forty-six Republican House members have announced they're not running again. That is a huge number of retirements."

From the pod title "Exquisite Presidential Leadership" at approximately 19m:50s.

  • 1
    What was the actual quote? – Azor Ahai Aug 13 '18 at 14:42
  • (FWIW - Current makeup of the House of Representatives - Republicans - 236, Democrats - 193, Vacancies - 6. 46 out of 236 is roughly 17% of House Republicans.) – BruceWayne Aug 13 '18 at 17:50
  • Why is "fact" in quotation marks? – phoog Aug 14 '18 at 16:43
  • Not authoritative, so it's a comment, but I wonder how much of the increasingly partisan, "screw you" atmosphere within US politics plays into the decisions. A lot of times it's people who chaired especially conflict- and acrimony-riddled committees that seem to hang it up, as soon as it looks like they may be on the other side of the in-charge line. – PoloHoleSet Aug 14 '18 at 17:36
37

It depends on how exactly you count. For example, not contesting a seat because you are running for Governor is not really "retiring", nor is losing your primary.

Among those not contesting their seats, "FiveThirtyEight" counts 26 pure Republican retirements and 8 Democrats.

This is higher than average and obviously skewed but not truly exceptional. In 2008, 27 Republicans and 3 Democrats walked away from political life. In 1992, 23 Republicans and 35 Democrats quit (following the House Banking Scandal). Those were both during Presidential election years. In the mid-terms in 1994, 9 Republicans and 27 Democrats resigned (and there was a massive anti-democrat swing).

  • 5
    Wow, 1992 was brutal for retirements. One can't help but wonder if there's a reason for that other than "coincidentally a lot of people felt like retiring". – zibadawa timmy Aug 13 '18 at 7:56
  • 5
    I'd speculate: 1992 was the Bush Clinton election. There may have been lots of Republicans that were elected in the 84 Regan wave election feeling that 2 terms was enough, and a lot of (southern) Democrats who were doubtful of a "Billary" presidency. – James K Aug 13 '18 at 9:42
  • 12
    @zibadawatimmy The en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_banking_scandal broke early that year. – RonJohn Aug 13 '18 at 13:55
  • 2
    @JamesK 8 years is 4 terms in the House. :) Agreed with the answer, though. For example, at least 2 of the House GOP members were not running for reelection this year in my home state... because one was running for U.S. Senate and the other was running for Governor instead. That's not 'retiring' by any meaningful definition. – reirab Aug 13 '18 at 16:38
  • Any insight into whether the number of "non-pure" retirements is typical? (A record number of legislators leaving to run for other office—or dying in office!—might still be worth comment.) – 1006a Aug 14 '18 at 15:21
7

To your first question - using a more broad definition of "retiring", and assuming you're really curious as to the number of Republicans leaving for whatever reason...

According to the "Casualty List", on the US House of Representatives' Press Gallery's website, the list of Republicans "Left or Leaving Office" is 50 people long:

Noem (R), SD (Governor)
Zinke (R), MT (Administration)**
Pompeo (R), KS (CIA)**
Johnson, Sam (R), TX
Price (R), GA (Administration)**
Jenkins, Lynn (R), KS
Mulvaney (R), SC (Administration)**
Renacci (R), OH (Senate)
Chaffetz (R), UT**
Ros-Lehtinen (R). FL
Labrador (R), ID (Governor)
Reichert (R), WA
Dent (R), PA**
Trott (R), MI
Murphy (R), PA**
Blackburn (R), TN (Senate)
Tiberi (R), OH**
Duncan, John Jr. (R), TN
Barletta (R), PA (Senate)
Messer (R), IN (Senate)
Black (R), TN (Governor)
Rokita (R), IN (Senate)
Pearce (R), NM (Governor)
Jenkins, Evan (R), WV (Senate)
Hensarling (R), TX
Smith, Lamar (R), TX
Poe (R), TX
LoBiondo (R), NJ
Goodlatte (R), VA
Barton (R), TX
Franks (R), AZ**
Farenthold (R), TX**
Shuster (R), PA
Harper (R), MS
Royce (R), CA
DeSantis (R), FL (Governor)
Issa (R), CA
McSally (R), AZ (Senate)
Meehan (R), PA**
Frelinghuysen (R), NJ
Gowdy (R), SC
Rooney (R), FL
Cramer (R), ND (Senate)
Costello (R), PA
Ryan (R), WI
Ross (R), FL
Bridenstine (R), OK**
Garrett (R), VA
Pittenger (R), NC (lost primary)
Sanford (R), SC (lost primary)

*died in office      **resigned
  • 2
    Great answer so far. But is that normal? – Coomie Aug 14 '18 at 0:09
  • @Coomie - That's the hard part to answer. Unfortunately the Press Gallery doesn't have a "Casualty List history" which would be nice. If I find anything I'll be sure to update here. – BruceWayne Aug 14 '18 at 21:19
1

46 representatives is a bit more than 10% of the entire House of Representatives (435 members). On average, a bit more than 10% of the representatives who seek reelection will be defeated, for a total of about 20% of the House membership leaving office in one election cycle. If the current retirement rate is typical, then, since U.S. representatives serve two-year terms in between elections, this works out to an average House tenure of about five election cycles, or ten years. For the past few Congresses, the average term length of a U.S. representative has fluctuated around 9 years, which indicates (based on a very rough back-of-the-ballpark calcumation) that the number of resignations this election cycle is at least somewhere in the vicinity of typical.

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