Mass exodus of House Democrats points to fearsome midterm challenge

In the run-up to the 2020 US election, Cheri Bustos is one of the Democratic campaign’s frontrunners, tasked with expanding her party’s majority in the House of Representatives.

But her efforts failed and instead of gaining ground, Democrats lost it, bleeding more than a dozen seats in the lower house of Congress and emerging with a razor-thin majority.

However, it came as a surprise to many at Joe Biden’s party when Bustos, 60, announced last year that she would be retiring at the end of her two-year term. Since then, more shocks have followed, with more than two dozen House Democrats now saying they will not seek re-election this November midterm.

The mass exodus underscores the increasingly slim possibility that Democrats will be able to cling to control of the House by the fall.

So far, 28 of the 221 Democrats in the House have said they won’t run for re-election, with at least seven lawmakers vacating vulnerable seats, which they won by a margin. single-digit returns last time, the FT’s analysis showed. More departures are expected in the coming weeks, as the deadline for candidates to submit their re-election paperwork remains low.

Separately on Tuesday, two lawmakers – Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and Jerry McNerney of California – announced they would not run for re-election.

Once considered a rising star in the Democratic party, Bustos is one of seven Democrats to “outperform” to win in 2020 despite Donald Trump beating Biden in their districts. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, who has also said he will not run for re-election in the fall, is another.

Both Bustos and Kind counties — Midwestern areas with mostly white working-class voters who once supported Barack Obama but have flocked to Trump and Republicans in recent years — are now are considered as hunting opportunities for the GOP.

“Those are some of the remaining counties that I class as white working class that Democrats still hold, and they’re evaporating across the country,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Some of the additional departures come amid a decade-long regional redistricting process that will see congressional district lines redrawn in certain states – an exercise The often partisan battle has led many Democratic lawmakers to call it giving up rather than fighting an increasingly uphill re-election battle.

Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio who is not seeking re-election to the House of Representatives but is instead bidding for his party’s nomination to the US Senate, is vaping a seat in the Midwest with white working-class constituency similar to Bustos and Kind. But while Ryan has a 7.6-point 2020 win over his Republican opponent, any spot in his district is likely to be wiped out following a destructive redistricting process. controversy in Ohio led by Republican state officials.

GK Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina who is also avoiding the side after the relatively close 2020 re-election, cited that state’s new electoral map in his retirement announcement. , called the proposed changes – which have been the subject of a protracted legal battle – a racially motivated gerrymander that would weaken the voices of black voters.

Ann Kirkpatrick, an Arizona Democrat, has also said that she will not run for re-election despite winning her seat by just over 10 points in 2020. Her county, which includes nearly all of Tucson, is being redrawn to heavily support Republicans heading into the fall. .

Ian Russell, a Democratic strategist who worked for many years on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which worked to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, said: is clearly facing challenges on a number of fronts. “Some swing areas have been taken off the board.”

At least half of Democratic retirees come from comfortable “safe” seats for the president’s party. For example, outgoing congresswoman Karen Bass won re-election in 2020 in Los Angeles – where she is running for mayor – by more than 70 points. But Democrats across the country are acutely aware that an incumbent president’s party history has suffered heavy losses in the midterm elections. Many also consider Biden’s slide in approval ratings a cause for concern.

“Having incumbents running for re-election usually increases your chances of keeping your seat, of course, but a president in the water is bad news for holding these seats, even if there’s an incumbent.” running for office there or not. [not],” said Russell.

Republicans say the retirement shows that congressional Democrats see the writing on the wall, and are stepping aside before being pushed into the minority. By comparison, only 13 Republicans said they would not run for re-election in the fall, and most of them are pursuing higher positions, including the U.S. Senate and presidential residences. governor.

“It’s a sign that [Democrats] See what’s coming,” Tom Emmer, Chairman of the Republican National Congress Committee, told Fox News last week. “This is a sign that they don’t see a bright future with the election next fall.”

But while conventional wisdom in Washington favors Republicans regaining control of the House in November, some Democrats are still agitated by the Republicans’ recent retirement announcements. .

John Katko, one of 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, said last Friday he would not. re-election in the fall. Katko is another example of a “cross-court” candidate who has won more than 10 points in her upstate New York borough in 2020 – even though Biden has a roughly equal district return to Trump’s. .

Katko’s seat is also likely to be limited by New York Democratic Party officials in a way that favors the president’s party, while similar changes could be made in two more counties where party members Republicans in New York – Tom Reed and Lee Zeldin – have said they will not seek. re-election.

“With those leaving the Democratic safe seat, we have more of them than the safe Republicans [retiring],” said Jesse Ferguson, another Democratic Party strategist and former DCCC executive. “But in the competition seats, it’s not anywhere near as deviant as some might think it would be.”

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