There's a concerning trend in the Republican Party at the moment. As the 2018 midterm elections approach, more and more Republicans are announcing their intention to retire at the end of their term instead of running for re-election in 2018. That makes seats currently held by Republicans vulnerable to being taken by Democrats, especially in districts that voted for Hillary in 2016.
The latest retirement was Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. He announced on Wednesday that he would not seek another term in November. Gowdy was the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman. He's actually the second chairman of that committee to retire. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah resigned in June.
In the last week, two other Republicans have decided to stop campaigning in districts Democrats are eyeing in 2018: Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania.
A staggering three Republican Senators and 24 House Republicans are retiring outright in 2018. House members who are running for other offices often counted as retirements because it’s usually impractical or illegal to run for multiple positions at the same time.
Including those members who are leaving to run for another office, there will be 16 open House seats vacated by Democrats and 35 for Republicans.
"In the House, they’ll need to pick up 24 seats, and the more Republicans retire in districts that Hillary Clinton carried last year, the more the GOP majority is at risk," said Slate of the Democrats.
See below for a full list of Senators leaving; descriptions are from Slate.
Republicans Senators Retiring
Bob Corker, Tennessee
Corker was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He opted against running for a third term and began criticizing President Trump.
Jeff Flake, Arizona
Flake is leaving the Senate after a single term. This is partly because he faced a hard fight to re-win his seat and partly because of his outspoken criticism of President Trump. Flake had lost his base in Arizona: His criticism of Trump in his recent book, Conscience of a Conservative, alienated the president’s GOP backers, while his conservative voting record put off Democrats.
Orrin Hatch, Utah
The 83-year-old incumbent announced in a video message in early January that he will not seek reelection next year. This created an opening for a possible Senate bid by Mitt Romney. Hatch served seven terms, making him the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. He also serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia 6th district
Goodlatte was nearing the end of his third and final term as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
House Republicans Retiring
Jeb Hensarling, Texas 5th district
Hensarling left the House leadership team in 2013 to head up the Financial Services Committee. His chairmanship will end because of term limits.
Rodney Frelinghuysen, New Jersey 11th district
Frelinghuysen was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "He has faced criticism from conservatives for voting against major GOP legislation, and he was facing the race of his life this fall in a highly competitive district. His retirement gives Democrats a seat they should pick up if they’re going to reclaim the majority," explained Slate.
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina 4th district
Gowdy announced in January that he would resign as chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after less than a year. He said he was better suited to the law, and he’ll return to the justice system, where he served as a federal prosecutor.
Darrell Issa, California 49th district
Issa is former chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and he served as the chief congressional inquisitor of the Obama administration for several years.
Joe Barton, Texas 6th district
Barton's time in congress came to an end after lewd texts and photos he had sent to women with whom he had extramarital affairs surfaced. He had intended to run for a 17th term. At one point, he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lamar Smith, Texas 21st district
Smith was the chairman of the Space, Science, and Technology Committee. He was coming up to his terms limit, and he likely retired for that reason.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida 27th district
Ros-Lehtinen was the chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She was a prominent GOP critic of President Trump, who she never endorsed. She retired after 28 years in the House.
"As a moderate, she voted frequently against top Republican priorities, including Obamacare repeal and the budget. Her South Florida district now becomes a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats," noted Slate.
Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania 15th district
Dent, co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House, was also one of President Trump's most vocal critics. He said the lack of a "governing coalition in Congress" contributed to his decision to retire after seven terms.
Dave Reichert, Washington state 8th district
Reichert is another moderate retiring after seven terms.
Pat Tiberi, Ohio 12th district
Tiberi lost out on his bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee after Paul Ryan left the job to become speaker. He won’t serve out the rest of his term, choosing instead to take a job as president of the Ohio Business Roundtable early next year.
Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey 2nd district
LoBiondo is retiring after 12 terms. He broke with his party to oppose Obamacare-repeal legislation, the GOP budget, and the tax bill.
Lynn Jenkins, Kansas 2nd district
Jenkins’ announcement in January that she would not seek a sixth term in the House was one of the earliest and most surprising of the Republican retirements. She had served in the House leadership and was mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, but she said she would not run for any office in 2018.
Sam Johnson, Texas 3rd district
Johnson is revered in the House for his Air Force service in both Korea and Vietnam, where he was held—and tortured—as a prisoner of war for seven years. The 87-year-old is retiring from a safe Republican seat after more than a quarter-century in Congress.
John Duncan Jr., Tennessee 2nd district
Duncan will have served in the House for 30 years by the time he leaves next year. Though he votes with Republicans on domestic issues, he opposed the Iraq War and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. His district should be an easy hold for Republicans.
Ted Poe, Texas 2nd district
Now in his seventh term, Poe is a former Houston judge known for ending each of his floor speeches with a variation on Walter Cronkite’s longtime sign-off, “And that’s just the way it is.” He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016.
Dave Trott, Michigan 11th district
Trott was a first-time candidate when he won his seat in the House in 2014. He decided he preferred the private sector, however, announcing in September that he would return home after just two terms.
Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania 18th district
Murphy resigned the seat he held for 15 years in October after it was revealed that he allegedly asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion. Reports that he presided over a toxic work culture in his House office soon followed. A special election to fill his seat will be held on March 13.
Trent Franks, Arizona 8th district
Franks is leaving for perhaps the most unusual reason: He abruptly announced in December that he would resign after acknowledging that he had asked two members of his staff to carry his and his wife’s child as surrogates, making them “uncomfortable.” His announcement came on the same day as the House Ethics Committee said it was opening an investigation into the situation.
Blake Farenthold, Texas 27th district
Farenthold announced he would not seek a fifth term after several former staffers accused him of harassment and of verbally abusive behavior in his congressional office. He initially resisted pressure to bow out even after the House Ethics Committee opened a new inquiry into his alleged behavior.
Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania 9th district
Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, announced in early January that he’ll spend 2018 on developing an infrastructure plan instead of running for reelection. “I thought it was the best decision for me to focus 100 percent on my final year as the chairman of the Transportation Committee, working with the president and other Democrats and Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill, which is much needed to rebuild America,” he told The Washington Examiner. Shuster first won election to the House in 2001.
Gregg Harper, Mississippi 3rd district
Harper, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he made the decision not to seek reelection over the holidays. “I never intended for this to be a career, and it will soon be time for another conservative citizen legislator to represent us,” he said in a statement in early January. Harper’s committee has recently received a great deal of attention as the panel charged with addressing sexual harassment in the lower chamber. The five-term congressman joins a number of other Republican committee chairmen who are stepping down.
Ed Royce, California 39th district
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce is yet another committee leader who chose retirement over a return to the back bench once his tenure with the gavel was up. Royce will finish his 13th term in 2018, and his departure creates a top pick-up opportunity for Democrats in Southern California.
Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania 7th district
Meehan announced in January that he wouldn’t run for a fifth term following the revelation that he settled a claim of sexual harassment made against him by a former staffer. The House Ethics Committee—a panel of which Meehan was a member—had already begun an investigation, and the congressman acknowledged that he had developed a deep affection for the woman while denying improper behavior. His departure opens up a strong pick-up opportunity for Democrats in what was already a competitive district.
Do you live in the district of any of these Congressmen? Are you concerned by their retirements? Let us know in the comments.