Two more Republican House members have announced they are retiring. On Thursday Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia announced that he’s retiring, and on Friday, Rep. George Holding of North Carolina announced that he is also retiring. With their exits, that means 18 Republicans have announced they aren’t seeking reelection in 2020.
Graves is another Republican retiring from a safe district, which is one more data point that suggests Republicans might not be terribly confident about their chances in the 2020 House elections. But Holding is something of a special case in that North Carolina just got a new congressional map. His old Republican-leaning district has now become a strongly Democratic-leaning seat, so with no good options for a reelection bid, he called it quits.
When things look bad, people have a tendency to head for the exits. The same is often true of Congress. Back in early August, nine Republican House members had said they would not seek reelection in 2020 and would instead retire. That number has now grown to 16 “pure” GOP retirements (in other words, excluding those who left to seek another office.)
This isn’t that far off from the 23 Republicans who voluntarily hung up their House spurs in the 2018 cycle — even though there are comparatively fewer potential GOP retirees this time around, as the party lost 40 seats in the midterms. It’s not always easy to nail down why someone has decided to leave public office, and there could be a number of factors at play, including dissatisfaction with President Trump, reelection worries or loss of institutional clout. But given that many of these recent retirees have been members of the House for at least two decades and would have been safe bets for reelection, their retirements could be taken as a sign that many Republicans aren’t confident in their party’s ability to win a majority in 2020. By contrast, only six Democrats have said they won’t seek reelection in 2020.1