House Republican Retirements Keep Coming

August 2, 2019

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • Presidential Debates & Polls: September debate qualifiers; NV poll
  • KS-Sen: US Sec of State Mike Pompeo more definitive
  • TN-Sen: Republicans coalescing around Amb. Bill Hagerty
  • House: More GOP Retirements - AL-2 (Roby), TX-11 (Conaway), TX-22 (Olson), TX-23 (Hurd); TX-4 (Ratcliffe - possible vacancy if confirmed as National Intelligence Director)
  • MS-Gov: Republican primary poll suggests run-off


September Debates:  With the second debate just completed, some qualifiers for the third debate, from Houston over September 13-14, were announced. The top candidates of course qualify: Ex-VP Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA), along with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Also present are a pair from the lower tier, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). Close to making the next stage are Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and businessman Andrew Yang. The requirements mandate the candidates at least have 130,000 individual campaign donors and receive 2% support in a series of polls that the Democratic National Committee recognizes. The qualifying deadline is August 28th.

California Law:  Rocky de la Fuente is a habitual candidate for President who has, like President Trump, not released his tax returns. In responding to the new California law that requires presidential candidates to disclose five years of their tax returns as a condition of accessing the California primary ballot, Mr. de la Fuente has filed a lawsuit claiming that the imposed new requirement is unconstitutional. He argues that the new qualification supersedes the candidate requirements defined in the US Constitution.

Nevada Poll:  The Nevada Caucus, which is the third nomination event on the 2020 calendar and scheduled for Saturday, February 22nd, should become more prominent in this year's campaign. The Morning Consult firm just released their latest polling numbers for the Nevada Caucus, which came from their rolling national sample conducted during the first three weeks of July. The 749 Nevada Democratic respondents give former Vice President Joe Biden a 29-23% lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) following with 12 and 11%, respectively. All other candidates landed in single digits.


Kansas:  Though US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously said that he is not planning to return to Kansas to run for the state's open Senate seat, he was more definitive in comments made earlier this week, saying such a move "is off the table." Apparently, more people are taking Mr. Pompeo's comments seriously. According to western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall's (R-Great Bend) staff, contributions of more than $100,000 immediately flowed into Mr. Marshall's campaign account after the Pompeo comments were published. It is widely believed that the Congressman will run for the Senate should Mr. Pompeo remain in his current position.

New Hampshire:  Reports emanating from WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH suggest that former Trump for President campaign manager-turned political pundit Corey Lewandowski (R) is considering launching a challenge against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). While former House Speaker Bill O'Brien and retired Army General Dan Bolduc are already announced candidates, a Lewandowski candidacy would certainly upset the Republican primary apple cart. It is doubtful that any could mount a winning challenge against Sen. Shaheen, however.

North Carolina:  Businessman Garland Tucker, who is challenging Sen. Thom Tillis in the North Carolina Republican primary, released an internal campaign poll that shows a closing race. According to a Diversified Research survey taken earlier this month and now publicly released (7/8-9; 500 NC likely Republican primary voters), Sen. Tillis would maintain only a 40-30% lead over Mr. Tucker.

Tennessee:  It appears that Tennessee Republicans are beginning to seriously coalesce behind Ambassador Bill Hagerty to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). Earlier this week, two-term Rep. David Kustoff (R-Germantown) said he would not enter the statewide race and will presumably seek re-election to the House. The only serious Republican candidate other than Mr. Hagerty, who has yet to formally announce, is Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi. For the Democrats, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler has the early field all to himself. The candidate filing deadline is April 2nd with an August 6th partisan primary date.


AL-1:   The WPA Intelligence organization tested the open Alabama 1st District Republican primary that will be decided on March 3rd, concurrent with the state's presidential primary. According to the poll (7/23-24; 400 AL-1 likely Republican primary voters) former state Sen. Bill Hightower scores 34% followed by state Rep. Curt Pringle (R-Mobile) with 16%, and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl posting 12% preference. The data suggests that the primary race will end in the top two finishers advancing into an April 14th run-off election. The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite for the general election. The seat is open because Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is running for the Senate.

AL-2:  Five-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) announced over last weekend that she will not seek a sixth term next year, releasing a statement that thanked her family and the people of the 2nd District for supporting her throughout the decade. Ms. Roby is one of six GOP House members during the week to announce that their current congressional term will be their last. Alabama's 2nd District is safely Republican (Trump '16: 65-33%; Romney '12: 63-36%) so there is little chance of this becoming a competitive general election seat.

FL-27:  Donna Shalala, the former Health & Human Services Secretary and president to both the University of Wisconsin and Miami University, won a south Florida congressional seat in the last election. She defeated former Spanish-language channel news anchorwoman Maria Elvira Salazar, 52-46% in the 2018 general election. Yesterday, in an expected move, Ms. Salazar announced that she will return for a re-match next year.

KS-3:  Sara Weir, the former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, announced her congressional candidacy this week. She has a strong chance of coalescing Republicans around her political bid before the August 2020 primary, which will help her build a strong campaign organization against freshman Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas City). Ms. Davids unseated four-term Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) in November, and the 3rd District electorate has typically voted in swing fashion. This could be a race to watch.

KY-6:  In 2018, retired Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath (D) raised and spent over $8 million to challenge GOP Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington), and came within three percentage points of beating him. Now in the Senate race against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), the Democrats were actively attempting to recruit a new challenger for Mr. Barr. Yesterday, it was announced that another Marine Corps veteran, Josh Hicks (D), has stepped forward to run for Congress. It remains to be seen if he can raise as much in the way of resources as Ms. McGrath did but, considering Rep. Barr's strong performance in 2018, it will be much more difficult to dislodge him in 2020 and especially so with President Trump running strongly in the state.

NJ-5:  With almost 30 viable primary challenges to Democratic House members already underway, two-term New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff) has now attracted an opponent. Glen Rock City Councilwoman and neuroscientist Arati Kreibich announced her candidacy yesterday, saying that "incremental change isn't cutting it." Mr. Gottheimer has already raised $1.74 million for his 2020 campaign and has more than $5.6 million in his campaign account.

NY-3:  While many Democratic incumbents are attracting credible primary challengers, one who appears to have avoided one is two-term Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). Former Democratic National Committee member Bob Zimmerman, who had been publicly considering running and was actively exploring his chances, this week said he would not challenge Rep. Suozzi. The Congressman is, at least for the time being, left with only minor opponents.

TX-4:  President Trump announced that he will nominate three-term Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) to replace outgoing National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, thus opening a second Texas seat. The development means that 14 districts will feature incumbent-less campaigns. Post-confirmation, it is likely a special election will be held to fill the balance of the current term. We can expect a hard fought Republican special and regular election primary to occur in this district that gave President Trump 75% of its votes. Mr. Ratcliffe was re-elected in November with 76 percent.

TX-6:  Texas freshman Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington) disclosed that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. But, Mr. Wright says he is responding strongly to treatment and will seek re-election. The Congressman is a strong favorite to win again in 2020 after scoring an original 53-45% victory last November. The 6th District has been in Republican hands since former Representative and US Senator Phil Gramm switched parties and won a special congressional election in 1983.

TX-11:  Eight-term Texas Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) announced that he has decided not to seek re-election in 2020. Texas' 11th District is one of the safest Republican seats in the country. At 79% support, it is President Trump's third best district in the country. Therefore, the successor to Rep. Conaway will be determined in a hard-fought Republican nomination cycle.

TX-22:  Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is another of the Republican retirements. He will depart after completing four terms in office. Former Congressman Nick Lampson (D) represented the Beaumont district from 1997-2005 until he was unseated in the 2004 election. He returned to win the 22nd District in 2006 but lost it in 2008. On Monday, Mr. Lampson, now 74 years old, says he is considering attempting a comeback now that the 22nd is open again. Democrats already have three candidates, including 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni who posted 45% of the vote against retiring Congressman Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land). A crowded Republican primary is expected, and this field will yield a highly competitive general election contest.

TX-23:  Continuing the retirement parade, three-term Texas Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), who represents the most evenly divided voting district in the country and one that stretches all the way from San Antonio to El Paso, says he will not seek re-election next year. Mr. Hurd, a former CIA officer, says he wants to leave the House "to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security." Already in the race is 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, a former US Trade Office staff member and Iraq War veteran. She held Mr. Hurd to a 926-vote win last November.

UT-4:  In the last election, then-Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) unseated Rep. Mia Love (R) by just 694 votes, the second closest raw vote margin of any US House race in the country. Now, Mr. McAdams will stand for re-election in what is typically a safe Republican district. Yesterday, Republicans saw a new candidate step forward. Jay McFarland is a local radio talk show host and gaming app developer. He has created over 100 successful gaming apps and his talk program is widely listened to in Utah.


Mississippi:  Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy (7/24-27; 500 MS likely Republican primary voters) released a new pre-primary poll just days before the August 6th Mississippi nomination election. While the Democrats are poised to nominate Attorney General Jim Hood, Republicans are likely headed to an August 27th run-off election. According to the M-D data, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has only a 41-31-13% lead over retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller and state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando). To win nomination, a candidate must receive 50% support.