Another Democrat decides to spend more time with their family

Jacquelyn Martin

Earlier this week, Axios covered the rising sense of panic among congressional Democrats as the number of their members who have announced their retirement reached nine. Another six will be leaving to seek other offices. (By comparison, four Republicans are retiring and six will try for new offices.) While it’s virtually impossible that all of those seats will flip to the GOP, they already represent a number that is significantly larger than the party’s current margin of majority in the House. As of this weekend, you can add another retirement to the Democratic column. Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has informed her constituents that she will be heading home in January of 2023. But unlike some of the others who are probably departing because they fear an oncoming red wave, Johnson’s reasons are probably more mundane. (Epoch Times)

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, announced Saturday that she will retire in January 2023.

“I have gone back and forth … the whole time because of the pleading and the asking, but as of January … the year after next, I will step down,” Johnson said during an event in Dallas. “I will retire, and let me assure that I will also recommend to you whom I feel is the best to follow me.”

Johnson, 85, was first elected to Congress in 1992 and is one of the most senior Congress members.

When one of the most senior members of your party announces that they will be leaving the chamber, it could be easy to suspect that it’s because they’ve seen the writing on the wall and they expect that hard times are coming. That’s probably not the case with Johnson, however, for a number of reasons.

First of all, Johnson is 85 years old. She will turn 87 before the end of her current term, so it’s rather hard to claim that she hasn’t put in her time for the party and she deserves to retire if that’s what she wishes. Also, she is in one of the safest Democratic seats in the entire Congress. She’s been in office since 1992 and she hasn’t received less than 70% of the vote in more than a decade. She’s easily beaten back multiple primary challengers in recent years. If she wanted to stick around, she certainly could.

This announcement also isn’t coming at her party out of the blue. (No pun intended.) In October of 2019, she indicated to her supporters that this was likely going to be her last term. So she was saying the words long before the current era of red waves and Joe Biden acting as an albatross around the neck of his party. It honestly sounds as if she feels that she’s put in her time and deserves a break.

Speaking of the primary challengers I mentioned above, Johnson sent a very unsubtle message to them as well. As part of her retirement announcement, she assured everyone that she would be naming and endorsing a potential replacement. But she specifically said, “anybody that’s been already been rejected in this district, they will not be receiving my endorsement.”

In other words, even at the age of 85, there’s apparently nothing wrong with Eddie Bernice Johnson’s memory. And she remembers those from her own party who dared to challenge her for her seat in previous primary races. She hasn’t forgotten and she hasn’t forgiven.

Not all of the retiring Democrats are leaving behind seats as safe as Johnson’s however. Ron Kind will be vacating his spot in Wisconsin’s 3rd District and he barely held onto that one in 2020 by three points while riding coattails of opposition to Donald Trump. Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona held onto her seat last year fairly comfortably, but the tide seems to be shifting down there these days. And in Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb is exiting a district where Joe Biden barely squeaked out 50.4% of the vote last year. Republicans also expect to see a boost in other areas because of the current redistricting process. So Johnson’s departure may not impact the Democrats’ margin in the House next year, but their majority is far from secure.