WASHINGTON — Republican Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper announced Thursday he would not seek reelection, becoming the fifth GOP House chairman to hang it up after this year.
But his retirement may not necessarily signal a distress call for Republicans in 2018.
With midterm elections less than a year away, Republicans hope the passage of the recent tax reform package helps push President Trump’s approval rating up as he touts the success of where the economy is going.
Twenty-seven Republicans are presently not seeking reelection and 15 Democrats are also retiring after the 2018 midterms, Bloomberg News notes. Roll Call reports that 22 members retire on average each election cycle.
Other Republican chairmen who have announced their intention to not run for reelection include Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith.
Republican members who served out their terms as committee chairmen often find it preferable, and sometimes more lucrative, to find work in the private sector as opposed to continuing as a member without a leadership post anymore.
Although Harper would have been eligible for another chairmanship position in the next Congress, the other four retiring Republican chairmen were term limited out of their committee posts as a result of their conference leadership rules. Democrats, however, do not face this term limit on committees, as their rules differ.
“Congress isn’t as fun with less power, and all four of the retiring GOP committee leaders would be forced out of their roles and to the back bench in 2019,” Russell Berman at The Atlantic points out on the matter.
In addition to the Republican House retirements, nine members announced their intention to run for their state’s governor’s office or the upper chamber. These members include Tennessee Rep. Diane Black, who is seeking a run for the state governor’s office, as well as Indiana Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita who are challenging each other in a primary to face off against Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
“While roughly the same number of lawmakers in both parties are leaving their seats to run for higher office, just seven Democrats are retiring outright or have already resigned, compared with 17 Republicans. (House members running for other offices often count as retirements, because it’s usually impractical or illegal to run for multiple positions at the same time.),” Berman writes.
Although Republican lawmakers in New Jersey and Virginia may be basing their decisions over whether to run in 2018 on recent losses to Democrats in their respective states, it should be noted that the vast majority of the GOP retirements are in districts where Trump and the incumbents won overwhelmingly in 2016.