election 2022

One sign that a GOP blowout is coming in 2022? Democrats are running scared

Democrats are headed for the exits because being in the minority is no fun, writes Eric Garcia

Monday 10 January 2022 23:17
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<p>Rep Cheri Bustos ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2020 cycle, often seen as a stepping stone to move up in the ranks. </p>

Rep Cheri Bustos ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2020 cycle, often seen as a stepping stone to move up in the ranks.

On Monday morning, Democratic Rep Ed Perlmutter of Colorado announced he would not seek reelection. The retirement would not usually warrant much fanfare if not for the fact that he is now the 26th Democrat in the House to announce he will not seek re-election. It signals bad news for the party.

Some Democrats are leaving because they are seeking higher office, as is the the case with Reps Tim Ryan of Ohio and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, who are running for Senate. Reps Tom Suozzi of New York and Charlie Crist of Florida are running for governor in their states, while Anthony Brown of Maryland is running for Attorney General. Meanwhile Karen Bass is running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Other retirements are a product of the fact that Democratic leadership is largely older. Peter DeFazio, House Transportation Committee chairman, is 74. Bobby Rush of Illinois, a former Black Panther, is 75, and has had cancer. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas is 86 and chairwoman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) listens during testimony at a House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy hearing in the Rayburn Building titled "Oversight of DOE During the COVID-19 Pandemic". The hearing will examine the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy industry on July 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

But another reason for the Democratic exodus is that many of them see a red wave coming in this year’s midterms – and the swing-district Democrats don’t want to get washed away. Or they are in safe seats and simply don’t want to go back into being in the minority.

Take Reps Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Cheri Bustos of Illinois. Both were elected in districts where Donald Trump won both in 2016 and in 2020. Ms Bustos was hailed as a phenom for her ability to win over white working-class voters and she when her district by 20 points and was even seen as a future speaker of the House.

Ms Bustos ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2020 cycle, often seen as a stepping stone to move up in the ranks. But Democrats actually lost seats in the House despite Joe Biden’s victory and she narrowly won reelection by four points.

Ms Bustos is from Illinois and could have waited for the state legislature’s redistricting process to shore her up to ensure she has a more Democratic district. But running the Democrats’ main campaign operation and having a net loss of seats means there is little room for her to move up. And Sen Dick Durbin, who is 77, winning reelection that year, there is simply no room for her to move.

Mr Kind, for his part, also represents a Trump district. In 2016, he ran unopposed and in 2018, he won by almost 20 points. But in 2020, he won by less than 3 points. In a wave year, it is easy to see that he could probably lose, so instead, he decided to bow out.

Then there are ones whose districts were being drawn out. For years, many saw Rep Stephanie Murphy as the type of Democrat who would win in Florida. Despite Mr Trump winning Florida in 2016, she knocked off a Republican incumbent who had been there since 1993. She was the first Vietnamese-American woman to win a seat in Congress and floated running for Senate against Marco Rubio before passing.

Rep Ron Kind

But despite being only being 43 and having a prestigious spot on the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, she decided not to seek re-election. Florida’s GOP legislature has proposed dicing up Ms Murphy’s district.

Ms Murphy citied the “personal sacrifice” she faces and the fact she’s a mother and no doubt, she experienced the toll in Congress during the riot. But the role of redistricting likely made her decision easier.

Similarly, Rep GK Butterfield of North Carolina, a former judge and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus told The Independent in November about the role of North Carolina Republicans in the state legislature in his decision to retire at the end of this Congress. He said the state has about an equal number of Democrats and Republicans but that the GOP gave a disproportionate advantage to themselves.

“There are 10 seats that assuredly Republican, three seats that are certainly Democrat and one tossup, and I’m the toss-up district,” he said and said it was “a factor – one of many factors.”

Democrats’ poor polling might also contribute to their decision to leave. A summary from FiveThirtyEight showed that a plurality of voters prefer Republicans to control Congress. Mr Biden’s weak polling numbers mean that Democrats in endangered districts run the risk of bearing the brunt of voters’ first chance to vote against the president.

Similarly, as voters see the economy as a major issue and many are unhappy about the current state (despite some good signs), House Democrats could see a red wave about to hit shore and they simply are getting out of the way.

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