Retirements pose challenge as Republicans fight to keep congressional majorities

The exodus of veteran Republican lawmakers from Congress could complicate efforts by the GOP to keep majorities in both the House and Senate as the 2018 midterm elections approach.

A stream of Republicans have recently announced plans to call it quits, including longtime Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said this week he would not run for re-election.

So far this cycle, 12 Republicans in the House and two in the Senate have announced plans to retire – and others are likely to follow suit. And these numbers do not include the 13 other Republicans who have left Congress to resign, take new positions in government or run for other offices.


  • Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee
  • Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona
  • Rep. Dave Trott, Michigan
  • Rep. Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas
  • Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas
  • Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., Tennessee
  • Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas
  • Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, New Jersey
  • Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Kansas
  • Rep. Dave Reichert, Washington
  • Rep. Ted Poe, Texas
  • Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia

The GOP retirements surpasses those of Democrats, who have seen just two retirements in the House and zero in the Senate so far this cycle. It also outpaces the number of retirements at this stage in past election cycles.

Democrats – who need to flip 24 seats to win back the House and three seats to win back the Senate – are arguing the recent GOP retirements improves their chances at flipping seats.

“In general, eliminating the power of incumbency creates a great deal of advantage for House Democratic challengers,” Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in a memo this week.


But Republicans point out the number of GOP lawmakers not running for re-election still falls below the historical average for retirements in an election cycle. They also say many of the retirees represent strong Republican districts.

“This is another pipedream from the same party that’s notorious for underperforming,” said Jesse Hunt, the National Republican Congressional Committee national press secretary. “We already have a host of quality Republican candidates declared in many of these seats and we’re confident they’ll remain in our column.”

Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this week he would not run for re-election to his House seat.

Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this week he would not run for re-election to his House seat. (Associated Press)

Goodlatte’s announcement this week follows the retirements of other influential Republican lawmakers, including Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent.

Other Republicans have said the toxic political environment has contributed to their decision to leave Congress.

The two Republican senators who are retiring -- Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake – have both had high-profile spots with President Trump.

“People before politics has always been my philosophy and my motivation," New Jersey Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo said as he announced his retirement this week. "Regrettably, our nation is now consumed by increasing political polarization; there is no longer middle ground to honestly debate issues and put forward solutions.”