A pair of longtime House Democrats announced their retirements on Monday, the latest in a string of departures that has left some in the party anxiously bracing for more ahead of what could be a brutal midterm.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle and North Carolina Rep. David Price, who both spent decades in the House, said Monday they would not seek reelection, becoming the sixth and seventh Democrats to announce their retirements ahead of next November.
Senior Democrats downplayed the latest announcements, saying both Price and Doyle had been privately forecasting their retirement plans to close colleagues for several months. But the loss of the two longtime members — both deans of their respective state delegations — comes as the House Democratic Caucus faces the potential for significant turnover next year, including in its top leaders.
“While it is time for me to retire, it is no time to flag in our efforts to secure a ‘more perfect union’ and to protect and expand our democracy,” Price said in a statement.
House Democrats have lost more than a half-dozen incumbents to retirements so far this cycle. That includes House Budget Chair John Yarmuth, who announced last week that he would not be seeking reelection, potentially clearing a path for his son to run for the seat.
Neither Yarmuth, Price nor Doyle are in clear peril of losing their seats in the coming redistricting. But the departure of such senior Democrats does not inspire confidence in the party’s midterm prospects. Price, for instance, oversees transportation and housing issues for the House Appropriations Committee.
Doyle is retiring from a solidly blue, Pittsburgh-area seat. He already had a primary challenger, and his departure will likely draw other big-name Democrats. Pennsylvania is losing a seat in redistricting and has a GOP-led legislature, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can veto any Republican-drawn map.
Price represents a safe Democratic seat in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area. The state is gaining a seat in redistricting, and Republicans have total control over the process.
They join the other retiring Democrats: Reps. Filemon Vela of Texas, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Ron Kind of Wisconsin. The National Republican Congressional Committee hopes to contest all of those seats. Five other members are leaving to seek other elected office, including Rep. Conor Lamb, who is running for Senate and represents a district bordering Doyle’s in western Pennsylvania.
Doyle said he had agonized over his decision, going back and forth throughout the year on whether or not to seek a 15th term. Ultimately, the new lines played a role, and he said he hoped that his and Lamb’s departures provided “an opportunity to look at the congressional map in Allegheny County with fresh eyes and hopefully draw it in such a way that we can preserve to Democratic seats.”
“The redistricting will change this district and most likely push it outside of Allegheny County,” he said in a news conference. “This is a good transition time for a new member to start in a new district.”
The announcements by Doyle and Price came shortly after the deadline for filing third-quarter campaign-finance reports. Though neither is a particularly prolific fundraiser, both pulled in especially low totals over the past three months.
Several other Democrats raised alarm bells within the party for their meager fundraising: Reps. Grace Napolitano of California, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who has already suggested that she would step down in 2022.
But party leaders are most worried about departures by younger members in tough seats who would both hurt morale and force national Democrats to drop millions to defend their districts.
Some Democrats privately pointed to Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a three-term rising star from the Orlando area, who raised just $140,000 in the third quarter, down from over $825,000 the previous quarter. But people close to Murphy said those second-quarter figures were larger than usual because she had been planning to announce a Senate bid — though the decision was ultimately thwarted when another Orlando Democrat, Rep. Val Demings, unexpectedly jumped into the race.
Murphy’s district could become much tougher in the coming redistricting; Republicans control the mapmaking process in Florida. But Murphy allies acknowledged that she has so far outraised every potential GOP challenger and will likely step up her fundraising after her state’s maps are drafted next year.
Already, Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez has hinted that he will shift districts after Republicans make changes to the South Texas map, switching to run for much of the retiring Vela’s territory. His likely move will deprive Democrats of an incumbent with a large war chest in a new district the GOP is drawing to make a pickup opportunity.
The announcements of the two senior Democrats come as many within the caucus quietly consider what the makeup of their leadership team will be after next year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously signaled this would be her last term, although she has declined in recent months to clarify when she plans to retire. It is widely expected within the caucus that when Pelosi leaves, her longtime deputies — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina — will also face pressure to step down.
The departures of the leadership trio, along with the series of longtime Democrats who are retiring, would be a seismic shift for the caucus, which has been led by Pelosi and her leadership team for much of the last two decades.
Pelosi recently said Democrats’ massive social spending bill was a “culmination of my service in Congress” but pushed back when reporters asked if that signaled that this was, in fact, her last term in Congress.
“Get out of here. Get out of here,” Pelosi told reporters in response.