The 2018 midterm elections are little more than a year away and members of Congress, Republicans in particular, are ready for a career change.
So far, 10 Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they plan to retire from Congress at the beginning of 2019, three have either resigned or plan to resign soon and 10 have announced that they’re running for another office.
Among Democrats, by contrast, two have announced plans to retire, and eight have said they plan to run for another office.
Some of the retiring GOP lawmakers have served in Congress for several decades: Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who first joined the House in 1991; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, who first arrived at Capitol Hill in 1989; and Rep. John Duncan, R-Tennessee, who was first sworn in in 1988. Others are somewhat newer to politics and have decided to return to the private sector, citing their desire to spend more time with family. A few aspire to statewide office and are running for Senate or governor, taking President Trump’s rise as their inspiration.
Two have opted not even to wait until the end of their terms to tender their resignation, Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. Chaffetz served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has gone on to work for Fox News. Murphy resigned from Congress after details of an extramarital affair became public. A day before his resignation, he had announced he had plans to retire and a report had revealed that text messages suggested Murphy urged a woman with whom he was having an affair to have an abortion even though he has long advocated an anti-abortion stance.
Of the Republicans planning to leave Congress in early 2019, three hold committee chairmanships. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced this week he won’t seek re-election after serving in the lower chamber since 2003.
“Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the U.S. Congress in 2018. Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” the Texas Republican said in a note to supporters.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, chairwoman of the House Budget Committee who took over the gavel from Tom Price when he was confirmed as Health and Human Services Secretary, announced in August that she plans to run for governor of her state next year.
Fellow Tennessean, Sen. Bob Corker, became the first Republican in the upper chamber to announce plans to retire in early 2019. He serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has played a pivotal role in negotiations over bipartisan sanctions targeting Russia, among other pieces of legislation.
“When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms,” Corker said in a statement in late September. “Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult. But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me.”
While most have been more coy about their decisions to ultimately step down, some are pointing to the divisive political environment that has only flourished and grown more partisan under President Trump.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, shocked the political world not long after Flake, with his announcement to retire and his decision to speak out against the president.
The Arizona Republican announced on the Senate floor in October that he could “better serve my country and conscience” by dropping his re-election bid, “freeing myself of the political consideration that consumed far too much bandwidth,” he said. Flake issued a thinly-veiled take-down of President Trump, criticizing the “personal attacks,” the “threats against principles, freedom and institutions” and “flagrant disregard for truth and decency.” He argued that recklessness, outrageous and unhinged behavior have been excused as “telling it like it is, but he warned that when such behavior “emanates from the top of government,” he said it’s something else.
“It is dangerous to our democracy,” Flake said. “Why didn’t you speak up? What are we going to say?” he asked rhetorically. “Mr. President, I rise today to say, enough.”
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, will not seek re-election. He served as a co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House. In the statement revealing his decision, Dent referenced the dysfunction in Washington.
“As a member of the governing wing of the Republican Party, I’ve worked to instill stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I’ve fought to fulfill the basic functions of Government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default,” he said. “Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos. But I have also had a stake in major legislative accomplishments: budget agreements that prioritize our federal commitments, pro-growth trade and tax policy, initiatives to advance medical innovation and research, major infrastructure investments, and policies that secure our homeland.”
Retiring Senate Republicans
- Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee
- Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona
Retiring House Republicans
- Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania
- Rep. John Duncan, R-Texas,
- Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas
- Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas
- Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas
- Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Washington
- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida
- Rep. Dave Trott, R-Michigan
House Republicans who have resigned or will resign
- Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah
- Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania
- Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio
House Republicans running for another office
- Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee
- Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-West Virginia
- Rep. Luke Messer, R-Indiana
- Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana
- Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee
- Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho
- Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota
- Rep. James Renacci, R-Ohio
- Rep. Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico