There’s been a trifecta of House retirements today.
Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah and Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Tom Latham of Iowa all announced that they will make the current 113th Congress their last. They’ll have served a total of 68 years when their terms expire at the end of next year.
Their departures are politically consequential for different reasons.
Matheson’s departure after seven terms seems to pave the way for an easy Republican pickup in 2014, when Republicans will be defending a majority that now stands at 232-201.
Matheson’s 4th District, which includes West Jordan and parts of Sandy and Salt Lake City, backed Republican Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by 67 to 30 percent in the 2012 election, according to data compiled by Political Capital.
The district is the most Republican-leaning of the nine that voted Republican for president and Democratic for House in 2012. Matheson, who cultivated an image as a Democratic moderate, was re-elected by 768 votes out of more than 245,000 cast to edge Republican Mia Love, who was already preparing a rematch in 2014.
Wolf, whose legislative interests include international human rights and protections for federal workers, will leave open a northern Virginia district near Washington where he has been politically dominant since going to Congress in 1981 on the heels of Ronald Reagan’s landslide.
Without Wolf on the ballot, Republicans will be tested to retain a district that probably would have been an easy Republican retention a generation ago. About 43 percent of the district population lives in Loudoun County, once a Republican bastion that’s become more politically competitive as it swelled in population. The district also includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties, plus all of Frederick and Clarke Counties and the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.
Wolf’s district, the 10th, is mildly Republican by the numbers. It backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli by 1 percentage point in the Nov. 5 governor’s election and Romney by 1 point in the 2012 presidential election. The Nov. 5 attorney general’s race, subject to a recount, was even closer than that in the 10th District, siding with Republican Mark Obenshain over Democratic winner Mark Herring by 72 votes out of more than 214,000 cast.
Latham’s district, which envelops Iowa’s Southwestern quadrant and includes the state capital of Des Moines and some suburbs, also is a potential Democratic pickup. The district, numbered the 3rd, backed Obama by 51 percent to 47 percent, making it one of 17 that voted Democratic for president and Republican for House last year. Registered voters are about evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Democrat Staci Appel, a former state senator, was running against Latham.
The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report now rates Matheson’s Utah district as “safe” for Republicans and Wolf’s Virginia district as “lean” Republican. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates Utah’s 4th as “likely” Republican and Virginia’s 10th as a “toss-up.” Political Capital wouldn’t be surprised if both publications soon re-rated Iowa’s 3rd as a toss-up.