Three other veteran lawmakers — Reps. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) — this week said they wouldn’t run for reelection, stirring fresh speculation about who might be next.
The holiday season often brings a spate of retirement announcements in Congress, usually after lawmakers have had some time at home to reflect and discuss plans with their family.
Should McKeon and Peterson step aside, it could have a major impact on the House election map.
Peterson, age 69, has long held a seat in a GOP-leaning district in rural northern Minnesota and would be tough to beat if he runs again. McKeon, age 75, represents a southern California swing district that could be competitive if he retires.
McKeon’s office is doing little to quash rumors that he’s serving out his last term.
“The Congressman has said that he was focused on the [National Defense Authorization Act], and was then going to spend some time with his family over the holidays discussing his plans for 2014,” McKeon spokeswoman Alissa McCurley told The Hill. “I expect him to make a decision sometime after the new year.”
Many in McKeon’s district expect him to retire, and potential candidates are already lining up to run. California state Sen. Steve Knight (R) has said he’ll run if McKeon retires, and former California state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) has already filed paperwork for McKeon’s seat in case he retires.
McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, has posted less than impressive fundraising numbers despite facing a credible challenger in Democrat Lee Rogers, who held him to under 55 percent of the vote in 2012. McKeon raised $210,000 last quarter, a paltry sum given the fundraising power that comes with his chairmanship.
Peterson has even weaker fundraising numbers and hasn’t committed to another run for Congress, though national Democrats insist he’s likely to run again. The Agriculture Committee ranking member raised just $82,000 last fundraising quarter and has just $227,000 in the bank, and national Republican groups are already spending on ads against him.
“He typically makes that announcement in February,” Peterson spokeswoman Allison Myhre said via email when asked if he’d made a decision yet, while declining to further elaborate on his plans.
Peterson has been the subject of retirement rumors for a few terms, and often gets off to slow starts in fundraising, so he shouldn’t be counted out.
Age and weak fundraising numbers signal that some other longtime congressmen might not stick around for another term. And, as the decisions from Matheson and Latham show, congressmen who are acting today like they’re definitely seeking reelection can just as easily change their minds.
Other members mentioned as retirement possibilities by party strategists include Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving House member in history, as well as Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.); Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.); Don Young (R-Alaska); John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.); Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.).
Many of them have indicated they’ll run again, however.
A source close to Dingell says he would make a final decision in February, as he usually does, but is gearing up for another campaign. Slaughter’s spokesman says she “has no plans for slowing down,” and pointed to the 84-year-old congresswoman’s response in January to a question about someday leaving the House: "They'll have to carry me out.”
LoBiondo is gearing up for what could be his toughest challenge in decades, as Democrats have often given him a pass in his swing district. His campaign manager’s response when asked if he’s unquestionably running: “Definitely. Count on it."
Rahall is facing a similarly tough race. Spokesman Allan Crow said he “is definitely, 110 percent, running for reelection.”
Capps and Young have both filed for reelection as well.
Conyers’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment, but he declined to retire after redistricting greatly altered his district and easily defeated a primary challenger.