Updated on January 12 at 11:07 a.m. ET
If you want to see a political wave forming a year before an election, watch the retirements.
They’re often a leading indicator for which direction a party is headed, and so far, 2018 is shaping up ominously for Republicans. On Friday, Arizona Representative Martha McSally formally announced she would run for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Senator Jeff Flake. Her decision had been expected for some time, but it is nonetheless a bittersweet one for the party. GOP leaders view her as the best candidate to help them retain Flake’s seat, and with it, the Senate majority. But her run opens up yet another competitive House seat that Democrats will be looking to capture this fall as they try to flip control of the chamber.
McSally’s Senate run creates the third vacancy for House Republicans this week alone. On Wednesday, California Representative Darrell Issa announced he won’t seek reelection, becoming the latest in a growing list of senior Republicans to bow out of the fall campaign. Issa served as the chief congressional inquisitor of former President Barack Obama during his tenure as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has been relegated to the back bench in recent years, however, and was facing the race of his life in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
And on Monday, California Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced he wouldn’t seek reelection. Several other veterans in competitive districts are also calling it quits, depriving the GOP of the advantage of incumbency in races that could determine control of the House in 2019. And more retirements may be on the way, as lawmakers make their final decisions about running ahead of their respective primaries.
At the same time, a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior has scrambled the retirement picture in both parties, and it’s forced several lawmakers to leave Congress early. Last month, Representative Ruben Kihuen of Nevada announced he would not run for reelection in 2018 even as he denied allegations of sexual harassment made against him by a former campaign staffer and a lobbyist in his home state. He has rejected calls by Democratic leaders for him to resign, and his decision merely not to seek another term came a few days after Republican Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas made a similar decision in response to harassment allegations.
Scandals have already taken down Democratic Senator Al Franken and long-serving Representative John Conyers among Democrats, as well as GOP Representatives Trent Franks and Tim Murphy. More could be on the way as new allegations come to light.
As for those getting out in 2018, President Trump’s low approval rating and Congress’s meager legislative output may be contributing to the decisions of some Republicans to retire, including moderate Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, and Dave Reichert of Washington state. But there are other factors at play. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have rules limiting the terms of their committee chairmen to ensure turnover and give younger members a chance to advance in the House. Congress isn’t as fun with less power, and six of the seven departing GOP committee leaders would be forced out of their roles and to the back bench in 2019.
The trend to this point gives a distinct edge to the Democrats. While roughly the same number of lawmakers in both parties are leaving their seats to run for higher office, just seven House Democrats are retiring outright or have already resigned, compared with 21 Republicans. (House members running for other offices often count as retirements, because it’s usually impractical or illegal to run for multiple positions at the same time.) Including those members who are leaving to run for another office, there will be 15 open House seats vacated by Democrats and 32 for Republicans. Democratic victories last November in gubernatorial and state legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey could spur more retirements among Republicans worried about the national political environment under Trump.
And although Democrats must defend far more Senate seats than Republicans in 2018—including several in states that Donald Trump won—all of the party’s incumbents are currently running for reelection. The retirements of Corker and Flake, along with a Democratic victory in December’s special election in Alabama, give Democrats an outside chance at retaking the Senate majority. In the House, they’ll need to pick up 24 seats, and the more Republicans retire in districts that Hillary Clinton carried last year, the more the GOP majority is at risk.
Senate Republicans Retiring Outright
Bob Corker, Tennessee
- 2016 presidential election: +26.15 Trump
- 2012 Senate election: +34.6 Corker
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opted against running for a third term and promptly intensified his criticism of the president, whom he had praised during the election. Trump alleged that Corker “begged” for his endorsement, while Corker said it was Trump who urged him to run again.
Jeff Flake, Arizona
- 2016 presidential election: +3.57 Trump
- 2012 Senate election: +3.9 Flake
He decided to leave after a single term rather than wage what would have been a brutal fight for reelection, first in a primary against a hard-right Trump backer, Kelli Ward, and then, if he won, against a centrist Democrat, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, in the general election. Flake had lost his base in Arizona: His criticism of Trump in his recent book, Conscience of a Conservative, alienated the president’s GOP backers, while his conservative voting record put off Democrats.
Orrin Hatch, Utah
- 2016 presidential election: +17.9 Trump over Hillary Clinton; +23.8 Trump over Evan McMullin
- 2012 Senate election: +35 Hatch
The 83-year-old incumbent announced in a video message in early January that he will not seek reelection next year, creating an opening for a possible Senate bid by Mitt Romney. With seven terms under his belt, Hatch is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. He also serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate Democrats Retiring Outright
Al Franken, Minnesota
- 2016 presidential election: +1.5 Clinton
- 2014 Senate election: +10.24 Franken
Under pressure from fellow Democrats, Franken announced in December he would resign “in the coming weeks” after multiple women came forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Most of the allegations involved Franken groping women while taking a photo. His resignation means there will be a special Senate election in 2018 in a state that Hillary Clinton barely carried in 2016.
House Republicans Retiring Outright
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +24.8 Trump
- 2016 House election: +33.56 Goodlatte
Goodlatte was nearing the end of his third and final term as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he aligned with conservative hard-liners on immigration and voting rights. He advanced bipartisan legislation on criminal-justice reform, but it never reached the House floor.
Jeb Hensarling, Texas 5th district
- 2016 presidential election: +28.4 Trump
- 2016 House election: +61.21 Hensarling
Hensarling left the House leadership team in 2013 to head up the Financial Services Committee, and he passed up opportunities to make a conservative bid for speaker. His chairmanship will end because of term limits, but it was also marked by frustration: Hensarling’s proposals to wind down federal mortgage-lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as his overhaul of the federal flood-insurance program, proved too conservative to pass the full House.
Darrell Issa, California 49th district
- 2016 presidential election: +7.5 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +0.52 Issa
Issa in January became one of the most recognizable House Republicans to announce his retirement. A former chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he served as the chief congressional inquisitor of the Obama administration for several years. Issa is annually ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress, having co-founded the company behind the Viper car alarm (for which he famously provided the voice). But he was in for the fight of his life to win reelection after nearly losing in 2016 in a district that Hillary Clinton carried over Donald Trump.
Joe Barton, Texas 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +12.3 Trump
- 2016 House election: +19.31 Barton
The dean of Texas’s large Republican delegation, Barton was planning to seek a 17th term before lewd texts and photos he had sent to women with whom he had extramarital affairs leaked online. During the course of his long career in Congress, he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lamar Smith, Texas 21st district
- 2016 presidential election: +10.00 Trump
- 2016 House election: +20.56 Smith
His is another term-limits retirement. An arch-conservative first elected in 1986, Smith likely would have had nowhere higher to go after finishing his tenure as chairman of the Space, Science, and Technology Committee, which he used to fight policies and funding to combat climate change.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida 27th district
- 2016 presidential election: +19.6 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +9.79 Ros-Lehtinen
A former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen never endorsed Trump and became one of his most vocal GOP critics in Congress. She retires after 28 years in the House. As a moderate, she voted frequently against top Republican priorities, including Obamacare repeal and the budget. Her South Florida district now becomes a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.
Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania 15th district
- 2016 presidential election: +7.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: +19.63 Dent
As co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House, Dent was one of his party’s most vocal critics, often voicing his frustration either with the president or the influence of the conservative Freedom Caucus in steering legislation to the right. He said the lack of a governing coalition in Congress contributed to his decision to retire after seven terms.
Dave Reichert, Washington state 8th district
- 2016 presidential election: +3.00 Clinton
- 2016 House election: uncontested
A former leader of the Tuesday Group, Reichert is another moderate retiring after seven terms. Though he won his recent elections easily, his district was once one of the most competitive in the nation and could be again next year.
Pat Tiberi, Ohio 12th district
- 2016 presidential election: +11.3 Trump
- 2016 House election: +36.73 Tiberi
Whereas others on this list retired after being term-limited out of committee chairmanships, Tiberi’s decision may have more to do with a post he never won. The veteran Ohio Republican lost out to Kevin Brady of Texas in his bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee after Paul Ryan left the job to become speaker. Tiberi was a close ally of former Speaker John Boehner, and he, too, became frustrated with the dysfunction in Congress. He won’t serve out the rest of his term, choosing instead to take a job as president of the Ohio Business Roundtable early next year.
Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +4.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: +21.99 LoBiondo
LoBiondo’s retirement after 12 terms gives Democrats a major pickup opportunity in New Jersey. First elected in the Republican wave of 1994, he broke with his party to oppose Obamacare-repeal legislation, the GOP budget, and the tax bill.
Lynn Jenkins, Kansas 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +18.4 Trump
- 2016 House election: +28.38 Jenkins
Jenkins’ announcement in January that she would not seek a sixth term in the House was one of the earliest and most surprising of the Republican retirements. She had served in the House leadership and was mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, but she said she would not run for any office in 2018.
Sam Johnson, Texas 3rd district
- 2016 presidential election: +14.2 Trump
- 2016 House election: +26.63 Johnson
Johnson is revered in the House for his Air Force service in both Korea and Vietnam, where he was held—and tortured—as a prisoner of war for seven years. The 87-year-old is retiring from a safe Republican seat after more than a quarter-century in Congress.
John Duncan Jr., Tennessee 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +35.4 Trump
- 2016 House election: +51.29 Duncan Jr.
Duncan will have served in the House for 30 years by the time he leaves next year. Though he votes with Republicans on domestic issues, he opposed the Iraq War and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. His district should be an easy hold for Republicans.
Ted Poe, Texas 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +9.3 Trump
- 2016 House election: +24.26 Poe
Now in his seventh term, Poe is a former Houston judge known for ending each of his floor speeches with a variation on Walter Cronkite’s longtime sign-off, “And that’s just the way it is.” He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016.
Dave Trott, Michigan 11th district
- 2016 presidential election: +4.4 Trump
- 2016 House election: +12.76 Trott
Trott was a first-time candidate when he won his seat in the House in 2014. He decided he preferred the private sector, however, announcing in September that he would return home after just two terms.
Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania 18th district
- 2016 presidential election: +19.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: uncontested
Murphy resigned the seat he held for 15 years in October after it was revealed that he allegedly asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion. Reports that he presided over a toxic work culture in his House office soon followed. A special election to fill his seat will be held on March 13.
Trent Franks, Arizona 8th district
- 2016 presidential election: +21.1 Trump
- 2016 House election: +37.13 Franks
Franks is leaving for perhaps the most unusual reason: He abruptly announced in December that he would resign after acknowledging that he had asked two members of his staff to carry his and his wife’s child as surrogates, making them “uncomfortable.” His announcement came on the same day as the House Ethics Committee said it was opening an investigation into the situation.
Blake Farenthold, Texas 27th district
- 2016 presidential election: +23.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: +23.39 Farenthold
Farenthold announced he would not seek a fifth term after several former staffers accused him of harassment and of verbally abusive behavior in his congressional office. He initially resisted pressure to bow out even after the House Ethics Committee opened a new inquiry into his alleged behavior.
Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania 9th district
- 2016 presidential election: +42.5 Trump
- 2016 House election: +26.68 Shuster
Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, announced in early January that he’ll spend 2018 on developing an infrastructure plan instead of running for reelection. “I thought it was the best decision for me to focus 100 percent on my final year as the chairman of the Transportation Committee, working with the president and other Democrats and Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill, which is much needed to rebuild America,” he told The Washington Examiner. Shuster first won election to the House in 2001.
Gregg Harper, Mississippi 3rd district
- 2016 presidential election: +24.5 Trump
- 2016 House election: +35.83 Harper
Harper, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he made the decision not to seek reelection over the holidays. “I never intended for this to be a career, and it will soon be time for another conservative citizen legislator to represent us,” he said in a statement in early January. Harper’s committee has recently received a great deal of attention as the panel charged with addressing sexual harassment in the lower chamber. The five-term congressman joins a number of other Republican committee chairmen who are stepping down.
Ed Royce, California 39th district
- 2016 presidential election: +8.6 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +14.46 Royce
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce is yet another committee leader who chose retirement over a return to the back bench once his tenure with the gavel was up. Royce will finish his 13th term in 2018, and his departure creates a top pick-up opportunity for Democrats in Southern California.
House Democrats Retiring Outright
Luis Gutierrez, Illinois 4th district
- 2016 presidential election: +68.9 Clinton
- 2016 House election: uncontested
Now in his 13th term, Gutierrez is perhaps the most prominent Democratic ally of immigrants in the House and has been at the center of virtually every attempt to extend a path to citizenship to those in the country illegally. In announcing his retirement in November, he anointed a possible successor in his heavily Democratic district, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and said he might run for president in 2020.
John Conyers, Michigan 13th district
- 2016 presidential election: +60.7 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +61.38 Conyers
First elected in 1964, Conyers was the dean of the House as its longest-serving member. But he was brought down by allegations of sexual harassment made by multiple former female staffers in his office. Conyers denied the accusations but bowed to pressure from Democratic leaders and resigned from the House in early December.
Sander Levin, Michigan 9th district
- 2016 presidential election: +7.8 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +20.51 Levin
Levin, 86, will leave the House four years after his brother, Carl, retired from the Senate. He served briefly as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and was a top Democrat on taxes and trade policy.
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire 1st district
- 2016 presidential election: +1.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: +1.34 Shea-Porter
Shea-Porter represents what is perhaps the nation’s quintessential swing district. It has changed parties five times in the last six elections, and Shea-Porter faced the same Republican opponent in four consecutive races. (She won twice.) With her retirement, the district is once again considered a toss-up.
Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts 3rd district
- 2016 presidential election: +22.8 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +37.53 Tsongas
Tsongas will retire after more than a decade in the House, and her district should stay in Democratic hands. She is the widow of Paul Tsongas, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
Gene Green, Texas 29th district
- 2016 presidential election: +45.7 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +48.49 Green
The onetime chairman of the House Ethics Committee announced in November that he would retire after more than a quarter-century in the House. He was first elected in 1992.
Ruben Kihuen, Nevada 4th district
- 2016 presidential election: +4.9 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +4.01 Kihuen
Kihuen’s time in Congress will be brief after he faced accusations of sexual harassment less than a year into his first term. Facing calls from Democratic leaders to resign, he announced instead that he would serve out his term but not seek another one in 2018. His exit will leave a competitive open seat in Nevada that Republicans might take a serious run at picking up.
House Republicans Running for Higher Office in 2018
Diane Black, Tennessee 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +48.9 Trump
- 2016 House election: +49.29 Black
First elected in 2010, Black served this year as chairwoman of the House Budget Committee before deciding not to seek reelection and run for governor instead. With the 2018 budget finally adopted, she may leave her seat early to focus on her next campaign.
Luke Messer, Indiana 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +40.3 Trump
- 2016 House election: +42.44 Messer
Now serving his third term in the House, Messer is facing off against fellow Indiana Representative Todd Rokita in a primary for the right to challenge Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. He represents the seat once held by Vice President Mike Pence.
Todd Rokita, Indiana 4th district
- 2016 presidential election: +34.1 Trump
- 2016 House election: +34.12 Rokita
Rokita entered Congress one term before Messer. He made a brief bid for governor in 2016 after Pence was named as Donald Trump’s running mate, but he was able to retain his House seat after Republicans picked Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb. He won’t have that luxury if he loses the Senate race because the primaries for the Senate and House are on the same day.
Steve Pearce, New Mexico 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +10.2 Trump
- 2016 House election: +25.48 Pearce
After serving two separate stints covering seven terms in the House, the conservative Pearce is running to succeed Susana Martinez as governor of New Mexico. Republicans remain favored to keep his House seat.
Raul Labrador, Idaho 1st district
- 2016 presidential election: +38.3 Trump
- 2016 House election: +36.36 Labrador
Labrador defeated a GOP establishment-backed candidate in a 2010 primary before beating a centrist Democratic incumbent during the Tea Party wave that November. His decision to run for governor may be a blessing for GOP leaders, as he was a frequent conservative critic and member of the House Freedom Caucus during his tenure. Republicans should hold his seat easily next year.
Jim Renacci, Ohio 16th district
- 2016 presidential election: +16.6 Trump
- 2016 House election: +30.66 Renacci
One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Renacci originally announced plans to leave the House after four terms to run for governor of Ohio. But in January he decided to run for Senate instead after a leading Republican candidate, Josh Mandel, withdrew from that race.
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania 11th district
- 2016 presidential election: +23.8 Trump
- 2016 House election: +27.34 Barletta
Barletta was a Trump Republican before Trump and became one of the first to endorse the president’s campaign. A longtime crusader against illegal immigration, his Senate candidacy challenging Democratic incumbent Bob Casey will be a test of Trump’s brand in a formerly blue state that the president flipped red in 2016. Though it was held by a Democrat until Barletta won it in 2010, the 11th district is not currently expected to be competitive in the 2018 general election.
Kristi Noem, South Dakota at-large
- 2016 presidential election: +29.79 Trump
- 2016 House election: +28.21 Noem
Noem defeated Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in one of the closest races in the 2010 Republican wave. She’s giving up her House seat to run for governor, and Democrats will have a tough time winning it back.
Evan Jenkins, West Virginia 3rd district
- 2016 presidential election: +49.2 Trump
- 2016 House election: +43.91 Jenkins
Jenkins knocked off one West Virginia Democrat, Nick Rahall, to win his House seat in 2014. He’ll try to beat another, Senator Joe Manchin, in 2018. As with many of the seats Republicans are giving up to run for higher office, the 3rd district is less favorable to Democrats than it used to be.
Ron DeSantis, Florida 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +17.0 Trump
- 2016 House election: +17.13 DeSantis
A conservative in his third term, DeSantis announced in January he would run for governor, not Congress, in 2018. His decision came just a couple weeks after Trump offered him an unexpected endorsement in a pre-Christmas tweet.
Martha McSally, Arizona 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +4.9 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +13.92 McSally
McSally launched her long-expected Senate campaign in January for the seat Jeff Flake is vacating. Serving her second term in the House, she had become famous as the first American woman to fly in combat during the 1990s. Republicans leaders see her as the best candidate to hold the Senate seat, but her departure gives Democrats another strong pick-up opportunity in the House.
House Democrats Running for Higher Office in 2018
Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona 9th district
- 2016 presidential election: +16.3 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +21.88 Sinema
Sinema announced her candidacy for the Senate before Flake decided to retire. A member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, she has occasionally voted with Republicans on health care, taxes, and border security. She’s also the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Though Sinema’s first election in 2012 was very close, her district has trended more Democratic in the years since.
Jared Polis, Colorado 2nd district
- 2016 presidential election: +21.3 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +19.72 Polis
Another of Congress’s most wealthy members, Polis is running for governor after five terms in the House. The district includes Boulder and is considered a safe Democratic seat.
Tim Walz, Minnesota 1st district
- 2016 presidential election: +14.9 Trump
- 2016 House election: +0.76 Walz
Walz’s decision to run for governor of Minnesota after six terms in the House gives Republicans one of their best pickup opportunities. He won his 2016 race by only about 2,500 votes.
Beto O’Rourke, Texas 16th district
- 2016 presidential election: +40.7 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +75.75 O’Rourke
O’Rourke won his House seat in 2012 after defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, in a primary. He’ll have an even tougher challenge in 2018: knocking off Ted Cruz in a Senate race. His district in El Paso, meanwhile, figures to remain blue.
John Delaney, Maryland 6th district
- 2016 presidential election: +15.1 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +15.89 Delaney
The former entrepreneur is unique among all of the congressional retirees. Delaney is not leaving to run for Senate or governor—he’s already running for president in 2020. Despite his considerable wealth, he’s a heavy long-shot, but he’s hoping a super-early start will help. Delaney’s ouster of Republican Roscoe Bartlett in 2012 was aided by Democratic gerrymandering, and the district continues to favor Democrats as an open seat in 2018.
Jacky Rosen, Nevada 3rd district
- 2016 presidential election: +1.00 Trump
- 2016 House election: +1.27 Rosen
Rosen had barely started her first term in the House this year when she announced she would challenge incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller in 2018. Though she has the support of Harry Reid’s powerful political operation, the race is a risk for Democrats, since her exit creates an opening for Republicans to take back a seat they held until Rosen’s victory in November.
Colleen Hanabusa, Hawaii 1st district
- 2016 presidential election: +32.6 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +49.15 Hanabusa
Hanabusa held this seat for four years before giving it up for a failed bid for Senate. After a year back in the House, she’s leaving again to run for governor. Though the seat was briefly held by a Republican in 2010, it’s a solidly Democratic district.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico 1st district
- 2016 presidential election: +16.5 Clinton
- 2016 House election: +30.29 Grisham
Lujan Grisham won her first race for the House and is now running for governor. She is currently serving as chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
With additional reporting from Priscilla Alvarez.