More House Retirements Likely to Come

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 14, 2015 · 10:00 AM EDT

After spending five weeks at home in their districts with their families, how many members got homesick and are set to retire?

If history is a guide, at least a handful or more House members will announce their departure in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Earlier this month, GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota announced his retirement. But he is just the sixth House member who is not seeking re-election and not seeking another office next year. From 1976 to 2014, 22 House members, on average, retired.

If the number of retirements picks up, the pace would not be unprecedented.

At a similar point last cycle (the end of September 2013), just three members had announced their retirement, including Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, John Campbell of California, and Spencer Bachus of Alabama. But ultimately a total of 24 members retired last cycle without seeking another office.

Over the past 40 years, the fewest number of members to retire was nine, back in 1984. So unless this Congress is going to top that low point, it is reasonable to expect at least a handful more retirements, if not a dozen or more.

Democrats could use more open seats in competitive districts to claw back to the majority. For example, Kline’s 2nd District in Minnesota is a better takeover target without him running for re-election. But Democrats haven’t fielded a top candidate in some of the races where there are retirements, including New York’s 19th District being vacated by GOP Rep. Chris Gibson.

When looking for potential retirement candidates, don’t assume that it’s the oldest person in the room — the age range for the half-dozen members who have announced their retirement thus far varies from their early 50s to mid-80s.

Of course other seats could come open as members seek other offices. But the relatively small number of governorships up this cycle (three this year and a dozen next year) and small number of open Senate seats (five, to be precise), decreases the upward opportunities for House members and probably encourages many of them to stay where they are.