That’s how many House members have announced they won’t seek re-election in 2014.
Seventeen House Republicans have said they will make the current 113th Congress their last, including nine who are retiring from political life and eight who are running for the Senate.
Six House Democrats aren’t going to seek new terms this year. Three are seeking Senate seats, two are running for governor and Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah has told his Republican-leaning constituency he will retire.
Political analysts watch congressional retirements partly because “open” seats can be more difficult for the incumbent party to keep within the party fold than those that veteran members of Congress are defending. Incumbents have institutional advantages in name identification and campaign fundraising that they can bring to bear against weaker political opposition.
While House Republicans have about three times as many retirees as Democrats, most of them represent districts that lean Republican. Thirteen of the 17 districts that incumbent Republicans aren’t defending backed Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by at least 10 percentage points in the 2012 election, according to Political Capital’s calculations.
Democrats are hoping that two open Republican-held seats in Arkansas and one in West Virginia return to their ancestral Democratic roots.
Democrats should be highly competitive in contests to succeed Jon Runyan of New Jersey, who announced his retirement in November, and also Tom Latham of Iowa, Frank Wolf of Virginia and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, who announced their retirements within the past four weeks. Obama carried the Runyan and Latham districts and narrowly lost the Wolf and Gerlach districts.
More House retirements are expected, especially in this year’s first quarter, before the bulk of candidate filing deadlines. Democrats, facing the very difficult task of making a 17-seat gain to overturn the House Republican majority, would benefit from more Republican retirements in politically competitive districts.
This 23-district compilation excludes three districts that are presently vacant. Democrats have a good chance at winning a March special election in the Florida district vacated last October by the death of Republican Bill Young. A North Carolina district formerly held by Mel Watt, sworn in this week as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is a Democratic bastion. The third vacant district, in Alabama, will be filled today with the swearing-in of Republican Bradley Byrne.
In the Senate, the retirement picture favors Republicans. Five of the seven senators eschewing re-election campaigns are Democrats. Republicans are rated as mild to decided favorites in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. They’re also highly competitive in Michigan and possibly in Iowa, where there’s a crowded Republican field.
Democrats probably won’t be competitive in Nebraska, where Republican Mike Johanns is retiring after one term in one of the nation’s most Republican-leaning states. In Georgia, where Republican Saxby Chambliss is retiring, Democrats hopes a fractious Republican primary with three House members will aid Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn who’s received political donations from some Georgia Republican businessmen and former Sens. Richard Lugar and John Warner.