As we continue to study the 2018 electoral landscape, FairVote is tracking announcements from members of Congress who will not seek re-election, and describe how the new open seats impact our projections for the upcoming elections to the U.S. House of Representatives.
This week, the Chairman of the House Appropriations, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11), announced his retirement after 12 terms. Frelinghuysen vacates a competitive seat, with a Democratic partisanship of 48.5 percent percent. While Mitt Romney won New Jersey’s 11th District by almost six percentage points, President Trump carried it by just under one percentage point in 2016. Under FairVote’s highest confidence projections, Frelinghuysen's retirement shifts this seat from Republican hold to no projection.
The two other retirements do not affect our projections. Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA-01) announced his retirement this week. Brady vacates his Philadelphia based seat after almost 20 years in the U.S. House. Pennsylvania’s 1st District has a Democratic partisanship of 79.6 percent, and FairVote still projects a Democratic victory using our high confidence projections.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-04) vacates a safe Republican seat. South Carolina’s 4th District has a Republican partisanship of 63.9 percent, and FairVote can still project a GOP victory using our high confidence projections.
Frelinghuysen and Gowdy’s announcements make nine out of 21 Republican committee chairmen who have chosen to retire. The count currently stands at 34 Republicans who have announced their decision to retire at the end of their term, which eclipses the GOP’s all-time open seat record (27 in 2008).
The unusual number of retirements has spurred speculation as to why this is happening, with the conventional narrative about scandals, at-risk incumbents, and committee chair term limits being supplemented by the theories that running for Congress is detestable, and that being in Congress is detestable, both of which buttress the argument that more members should push for reform of the institution. Just four states’ filing deadlines have passed, so we expect even more retirements.
We now make high confidence projections in 377 races, 206 for Republicans and 171 for Democrats.
Here is a summary of all vacancies heading into 2018 so far:
https://e.infogram.com/42060083-c6f5-4461-84e3-e7d517e0528e?src=embed2018 Open Seats Summary550no0border:none;allowfullscreen
And here is the full list of open seats:
https://e.infogram.com/52066b35-1584-4ead-ad53-9125c0e0905b?src=embed2018 Open Seats550no0border:none;allowfullscreen