Updated on September 11 at 10:38 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, who will be defending 40 open House seats this fall compared with the Democrats’ 20. By far the biggest and most consequential retirement announcement came in early April, as Speaker Paul Ryan told his colleagues he would not seek reelection to his House seat.
Far more Republicans are leaving Congress voluntarily than Democrats, putting the party’s control of the chamber in jeopardy. Several veteran Republican lawmakers in competitive districts are calling it quits, depriving the GOP of the advantage of incumbency in races that could determine control of the House in 2019.
At the same time, a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior has scrambled the retirement picture in both parties, forcing several lawmakers to leave Congress early. Republican Representatives Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Joe Barton of Texas, and Democratic Representative Ruben Kihuen of Nevada abandoned reelection campaigns after misconduct allegations. Scandals already forced the immediate resignations of Democratic Senator Al Franken and long-serving Representative John Conyers, as well as GOP Representatives Trent Franks and Tim Murphy. Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas first announced he would forgo his reelection bid after acknowledging he agreed to a taxpayer-funded harassment settlement with a former staffer. But in early April, he resigned from Congress altogether.