Nov. 16, 2015 — Three retirement announcements, and how the process of filling the vacancies looks to play out:
Twelve-term Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), who represents the exclusive Monterey Peninsula in coastal California, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. The 74-year-old veteran congressman was first elected in a 1993 special election, after serving 12-plus years in the California state assembly.
The district includes all of Monterey and San Benito Counties, and portions of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. The 20th is heavily Democratic, as President Obama’s twin 71 percent victories here reveal. Under California’s top-two political primary system, it is probable that two Democrats will advance from the June primary to the general election.
Rep. Farr came to Congress when President Clinton tabbed this region’s congressman, then-Rep. Leon Panetta (D), to serve as his Director of the Office of Management & Budget. During his tenure in the House, Panetta had been chairman of the House Budget Committee. Now, Panetta’s son, Jimmy Panetta, a Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, is a potential congressional candidate.
With a safe seat open after 24 years, we can expect a crowded Democratic field. In addition to Panetta, state Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning is a potential candidate along with Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett, and assemblymen Luis Alejo and Mark Stone.
Farr is eighth in Democratic seniority on the Appropriations Committee, and is the ranking minority member of the Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA Subcommittee.
In what could open a door for Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president and Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, to run for Congress, four-term Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne) announced that she will not seek re-election next year.
Cheney, a national political commentator and author who briefly challenged Sen. Mike Enzi in the 2014 Republican primary before exiting the race for health reasons, confirms that she is considering entering the statewide open contest.
Since the at-large district is safely Republican (Romney ’12: 68.2 percent), Lummis’ successor will be the winner of the Aug. 16 Republican primary. Though Cheney may run, she can expect heavy competition for the state’s lone congressional seat.
Rep. Lummis, 61, an outspoken member of the Freedom Caucus, says she never intended to make serving in Congress a career, and is uncertain whether she will again run for public office. Prior to winning four elections to Congress, she served 15 years in the Wyoming legislature, and eight as state treasurer. Lummis is a member of the House Committees on Natural Resources, Oversight & Government Reform, and Science, Space & Technology, the latter of which is where she chairs the Energy Subcommittee.
Late Friday, 10-term Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-McAllen) announced that he, too, will not seek re-election, capping off what will be a trifecta of House members declaring their intention to retire. Rep. Hinojosa’s 15th District stretches from Seguin near Austin all the way to the Mexican border city of McAllen within populous Hidalgo County.
Hinojosa first came to Congress after winning a close Democratic open seat primary in 1996. He’s had little trouble winning re-election in subsequent campaign years.
We can expect a large number of Democratic candidates to file in what proves to be a safe Democratic district (Obama ’12: 57.4 percent) that is 81 percent Hispanic with 22 percent foreign born residents. Hinojosa, 75, serves on the Financial Services and Education and the Workforce committees.
The House now stands with 30 open seats for the cycle, 17 that are currently Republican-held as compared to 13 in Democratic Party hands.