ANOTHER HOUSE REPUBLICAN HEADS FOR THE EXITS…. I know lawmakers from both parties pull this stunt from time to time, but it never seems right when members of Congress announce their retirement the day of the filing deadline.
Hours before the state’s filing deadline, Florida Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite announced that she would leave Congress at the end of this term.
“As I have prepared for my campaign, I have been troubled by persistent health problems and have come to the disappointing and sad conclusion that I cannot run for reelection,” Brown Waite said in a statement.
She quickly pivoted to back Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent as her preferred replacement, calling him “a strong conservative.”
I can’t speak to Brown-Waite’s health condition, and I certainly wish her well. But if medical matters really prompted her retirement, why not make an announcement sooner? Instead, she waited until the morning of the filing deadline, with a hand-picked successor, and left Democrats with little opportunity to field a credible challenger.
Of course, it probably wouldn’t have mattered — Florida’s 5th congressional district was drawn by GOP state lawmakers to be a Republican stronghold, and it is. The NRCC expects to replace Brown-Waite with another conservative lawmaker, which seems like a safe bet.
As for the retirement totals, Brown-Waite is the 19th House Republican to retire this cycle (20th if you count Florida’s Mario Diaz-Balart, who is retiring from one House seat to run for another), as compared to 16 House Democrats.
With the House Republican caucus having 177 members, that means about 11% of House GOP incumbents have decided to give up their seats in a year that’s supposed to be a wildly successful one for Republicans.
Sure, not all retirements are created equal. There’s a qualitative difference between stepping down in a competitive district and giving up one’s seat in a “sure thing” for one party. When considering questions like the balance of power, retirements are not quite the indicator some in the media would like to believe.
But if you ask anyone at the NRCC or DCCC for an honest opinion, I think they’d agree that when a party is supposed to have the wind at its back, and when that party’s leadership is trying to keep retirements to a minimum, having more than 10% of the caucus walk away has to be discouraging.
Indeed, in February, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Democratic retirements are a sign that Dems are “running for the hills because they sold out their constituents and don’t want to face them at the ballot box.”
With GOP retirements outnumbering Dems’ — by a margin that’s growing — are we to also assume that Republicans don’t want to face voters at the ballot box?