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Johnson’s retirement announcement last week was surprising because it looked as if Democrats would fall short on their effort to defeat him. The Democratic candidate favored by national party strategists failed to make it out of last month’s primary, knocking the race way down on the DCCC’s target list.
According to a Johnson spokesman, the lawmaker will be “fully engaged” in the final months of his term and remains committed to reciprocating Murphy’s help by doing a town hall meeting with his Democratic colleague in Connecticut, where Murphy is in the middle of a semi-competitive Senate race.
Joint town hall appearances are one tangible byproduct of the group. Missouri Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R) and Carnahan, the group’s two other co-chairmen, held a joint event in their home state last year in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D).
Finding new leadership isn’t the only challenge for the group. Boosting attendance can also be tough at a time when partisan rhetoric is at a fever pitch and bipartisanship measures aren’t rewarded by primary voters. Last year, Murphy acknowledged that Members weren’t exactly “beating down the doors” to join.