Targeted Republicans push back on retirement speculation

Targeted Republicans push back on retirement speculation
© Greg Nash

House Republicans expected to be heavily targeted by Democrats in next year’s midterm elections pushed back Tuesday on speculation that they might retire.

At least three Republicans have emphasized their plans to run for reelection after several other House GOP lawmakers representing competitive districts announced their retirement in the past week.

Rep. Pete Sessions’s (R-Texas) campaign tweeted Tuesday that he is "[h]onored to represent #TX32. To my friends who think I'm hanging it up, as we say in #TX, Come and Take It. Rumors are completely false.”

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Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), meanwhile, “is 100 percent running for reelection,” an aide told The Hill.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), another lawmaker representing a district carried by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE last year, also told The Hill last week that he plans to run for reelection.

"I'm confident that my views are the views of the overwhelming majority of the district I serve. It's a district that believes in governing," Lance said.

Lawmakers pushed back Tuesday as House Democrats' campaign arm released an updated “retirement watch list” speculatively suggesting which lawmakers facing tough reelection races next year might be the most likely to call it quits.

Democrats are hoping that the recently announced departures of Reps. Dave ReichertDavid ReichertThe future lies in the Asia-Pacific Republican’s decision to retire seen as sign of growing frustration in Washington Ohio Republican Tiberi to leave Congress MORE (R-Wash.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich.) will improve their chances of flipping those swing districts.

GOP lawmakers on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list included Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sessions, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, both of whom are among the 23 Republicans representing districts won by Clinton last year.

The two committee chairmen will be particularly tough for Democrats to unseat. Sessions once led the House GOP campaign arm and has served in Congress since 1997, while Royce has been in office since 1993.

Two political prognosticators, Sabato's Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report, shifted their ratings of the districts currently represented by Reichert, Dent and Trott as more favorable to Democrats than they would be otherwise with the incumbents running again.

Reichert's east-of-Seattle district, which was also won by Clinton, is now considered a "toss-up." So is Trott's southeastern Michigan district, which Trump carried by only 4 points.

Dent, the leader of the centrist Tuesday Group, was considered a tough incumbent to beat and was not officially among Democrats' targets. But his district, which President Obama won in 2008, is now considered up for grabs despite its Republican lean.

“It’s a seat with a slight Republican tilt, although in a year — a midterm — like this, that kind of evens things out quite a bit,” Dent said last week.