- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2022

House Democrats are privately urging colleagues to forgo their retirement plans and tough it out in what is expected to be a brutal election year for the party, hoping they will help fend off an anticipated Republican takeover in November.

Lawmakers told The Washington Times that they are pleading with some of the 29 House Democrats who have announced retirement, including several in battleground districts, not to give up their seats without a fight.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat, said he has been trying to persuade Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and other Democrats to delay their decisions to bow out in vulnerable swing districts.

“I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and I said, ‘Please reconsider.’ Nobody had joy when Ron Kind announced he was not going to run,” Mr. Cleaver said in an interview.

Rep. Luis J. Correa, California Democrat, said he spoke with several members about rethinking their retirement announcements, though none would reconsider.

“It’s clear by the time they announce that they made their decision,” Mr. Correa said.

He blamed the increasingly polarized environment on Capitol Hill for the growing number of retirements.

“Most of them think it’s just too much battle up here,” Mr. Correa said. “I mean, I asked myself the same thing three weeks ago. Do I run for reelection?”

Democrats are also facing historical midterm election trends that favor the party out of power in the White House. Further dimming prospects for Democrats are President Biden’s rapidly sinking approval ratings.

A House Democratic aide said it’s no shock that members are having private conversations with their retiring colleagues to try to persuade them to run for reelection.

“That wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the kind of thing that’s happening,” the aide said. “It’s also the perspective of [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney] or whoever else is making those asks that if they’re fans of those people and they had success, it makes total sense that they’d want them to stick around.”

The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.

The retirements particularly hurt Democrats in districts that are susceptible to Republican takeovers this year. They include Mr. Kind’s district and Rep. Cheri Bustos’ district in Illinois’ rural Quad Cities area.

Mr. Kind said his sole decision to retire is personal, and he hasn’t been swayed by requests to reconsider.

He has held his southwestern Wisconsin seat for nearly 25 years and is considered one of the most centrist Democrats in his caucus.

“Everyone knows at the end of the day, it’s such a personal decision for the member whether they want to run again or even run for the first time,” Mr. Kind told The Times. “I think leadership and the DCCC know it’s an inherently personal decision between the member, their family, and whether they want to do it for the rest of their lives.”

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said some members are in difficult positions because of state redistricting. Retirement announcements are unavoidable, he said.

“Every election cycle, you have people who are ready to transition to a new phase in their life, so I’m not shocked by the number of retirements,” Mr. Seawright said.

Prominent Democrats who have announced intentions to give up their House seats include longtime Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Rep. Karen Bass of California, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, and former presidential candidate Tim Ryan, who is running for Senate in Ohio.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat considered to be highly vulnerable this year, also announced her decision not to run for reelection.

Mrs. Murphy is a member of the party’s centrist Blue Dog Coalition and serves on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.

The House Republicans’ campaign arm said it made sense for vulnerable Democrats, 60 of whom the committee is targeting, to bow out of the midterms.

“The House Democrats calling it quits are making the smart choice. Vulnerable Democrats can do that or lose next fall,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Mike Berg.

About a dozen House Republicans, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, have announced their intent to retire.

Rep. John Katko, New York Republican, announced his retirement this month.

Mr. Katko is the third Republican to opt out of reelection, along with Mr. Kinzinger and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, after supporting President Trump’s impeachment.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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