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House Retirement Watch Begins

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On top of the GOP watch list is Rep. Jim Matheson, who has spoken openly with reporters about pursuing a bid for governor or Senate instead of running for re-election.

Nonetheless, campaign veterans caution not to expect an onslaught of retirements this cycle — even once the new Congressional maps are finished. That’s in part because many of the Members who would normally step down following Congressional redistricting were forced out in the wave elections of 2006, 2008 and 2010. What’s more, the shift in power in the House over the past three cycles has left Members of both parties hungry to either hold on to or take back the Speaker’s gavel.

That wasn’t the case in 2002, when Democrats had been out of power for almost a decade. In that cycle, 18 House Members opted to retire while 19 ran for another office.

“I think the politics of 2002 were a little different in the sense that there were probably more Democrats sick of being in the minority who simply lost the fire in the belly, and so it was easier to retire than to try to motivate themselves to raise the money and go through another grueling campaign,” said Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist who worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2002.

The largest class of House departures in recent history was following redistricting in 1992, when an astounding 52 Members opted to retire as another 14 ran for higher office. So far this cycle, only nine House Members have announced they’ll run for higher office, which makes for 10 open seats so far, including the Boren retirement.

“I don’t think you’d see any more than usual based on 2000 and the last couple cycles,” said Carl Forti, a veteran GOP strategist who worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2002 cycle. “Obviously we’re going to have to see how some states redraw, but I would not anticipate an overabundance of retirements this cycle either.”

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