House Retirement Watch Clues Found in First Fundraising Reports

Coble was hospitalized in February but has returned to work. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Coble was hospitalized in February but has returned to work. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:38pm

Not a single House member has announced they will retire in 2014, but first-quarter fundraising reports indicate some may be headed in that direction.

Most of the Senate retirement announcements have come and gone, as Senate campaign officials tend to push members to step aside early in the cycle. However, House members generally don’t reveal their intentions until about a year before the elections.

For now, a dose of weak fundraising showings from the first three months of the midterm cycle offer clues as to which members could be considering the end of their congressional tenures. Whether they actually plan to retire likely won’t be known for some time, but the lack of motivation in fundraising will continue to feed speculation about some members’ political futures.

Two of the lowest fundraising sums turned in by Monday’s deadline came from North Carolina. Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt, 67, who represents a Safe Democratic district that runs along I-85 between Charlotte and Greensboro, raised only $1,000 in the first quarter and had $92,000 on hand as of March 31.

The last incumbent CQ Roll Call can recall raising such a small amount of money was Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Maryland Republican who was essentially redistricted out of Congress last cycle, but Bartlett did run for re-election.

Meanwhile, in a Greensboro-based district neighboring Watt’s, 15-term GOP Rep. Howard Coble, 82, raised $4,000 and had $38,000 in cash on hand. Coble was hospitalized for a day in February after complaining of severe dizziness, though he said upon leaving that he did not expect his work schedule to suffer.

Among the other elder statesmen routinely on retirement watch lists, New York Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel, 82, raised $35,000 and had a negative amount of cash on hand; Florida Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, 82, raised $58,000 and had $209,000 on hand; and Texas Republican Rep. Ralph M. Hall, who turns 90 in two weeks, raised just $15,000 — not counting the $20,000 Hall loaned his campaign, leaving him with $16,000 on hand. Hall is the oldest member of the House.

Retirement speculation continues to rumble in California GOP circles about Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who must relinquish his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee at the end of this term. McKeon raised $69,000 in the first quarter but still had $508,000 in cash on hand.

Party operatives are keeping their eyes on these and other members who could voluntarily leave Congress at the end of this term. A total of 35 House and Senate members retired at the end of the 112th Congress: 25 in the House and 10 in the Senate.

So far this cycle, seven senators have announced their retirements. The biggest remaining question mark is Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., whom some GOP officials don’t expect to hear an answer from until closer to the end of this year. In the first quarter, he raised $178,000 and had $632,000 on hand.