By Jim Ellis
Feb. 2, 2018 — The cavalcade of US House retirements continued with two more well known veteran members, one from each party, making public their intention to retire from Congress.
Counting this latest pair, the number of representatives not seeking re-election has now risen to 53 (37 Republicans; 16 Democrats). Four of the open seats are currently vacant and in special elections, though the MI-13 contest (former Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit) will run concurrently with the regular cycle.
SC-4Four-term GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) announced that he will also retire at the end of the current Congress. Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, had signaled his desire to return to South Carolina as early as the 2014 election but continued to remain and now will do so just through the final year of the current term. Prior to assuming the leadership of the government reform committee, Gowdy came to national notoriety as chairman of the special House investigatory committee on the Benghazi situation.
Rep. Gowdy’s 4th Congressional District largely encompasses the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area in the Palmetto State’s northwestern corner. As the Spartanburg County solicitor (known as district attorneys in most states), Gowdy ousted then-Rep. Bob Inglis in the 2010 Republican primary, and has easily been elected and re-elected ever since.
He was commonly viewed as a rising Republican star in the House but eschewed the opportunity to enter any internal leadership races. Gowdy says he will not be on the ballot for any office in 2018, and is planning to return to the South Carolina jurisprudence system.
SC-4 is a safely Republican seat (Trump ’16, 60.2 percent | Romney ’12, 62.2 percent). Congressman Gowdy averaged 70.5 percent through his four congressional campaigns.
We can expect a crowded June primary Republican race, with two of the contenders advancing to a run-off becoming a virtual certainty. The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite to hold the seat in November.
PA-1Philadelphia US Rep. Bob Brady, who is also chairman of the Philadelphia County Democratic Party, announced that he will not seek an eleventh term later this year. Brady has had potential legal proceedings hanging over his head about whether he and his political team had paid an opponent to leave the 2012 campaign. More than one of his former campaign staff members have already reached plea bargain agreements, thus making the congressman’s position all the more tenuous.
The 1st District, largely designed by Rep. Brady himself on the map that his own party has successfully declared a political gerrymander, encompasses a large portion of Philadelphia. About a quarter of the district then reaches into Delaware County. The 1st is solidly Democratic (Clinton ’16, 79.5 percent | Obama ’12, 82.3 percent), and Brady has always racked up re-election percentages exceeding 81 percent, including twice running unopposed.
Philadelphia is an old-fashioned Democratic political machine town, so the replacement process will proceed in an orderly fashion with the anointed candidate having little trouble winning the primary or general elections. In fact, in his role as county chairman, Rep. Brady will continue to have a major say about who will succeed him as the 1st District representative.
Interestingly, with the Brady seat now coming open — the fifth in Pennsylvania, though the other four are Republican-held — the 1st could see major boundary changes should the state Supreme Court’s re-draw ruling hold. This, of course, would create a brand new Philadelphia political situation.
Look for the Democrats to retain the 1st District, but the redistricting situation certainly adds a great deal of uncertainty just as this new open seat campaign begins.