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Langevin, McNerney join Democrats heading for exit

Democratic retirements reach 20 with difficult midterm elections ahead

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., will not seek a 12th term.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., will not seek a 12th term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The exodus of House Democrats ahead of a challenging midterm election season continued Tuesday, with Rhode Island’s Jim Langevin and California’s Jerry McNerney announcing retirement plans within minutes of each other.

Their decisions bring the number of House Democrats retiring after this term to 20, with eight more running for other offices. 

Neither Langevin nor McNerney faced a competitive election in 2020. Nevertheless, their departures were greeted by Republican campaign committees as further proof that House Democratic incumbents think their party will lose the majority. 

“With failed records on every front, it’s no surprise Democrats are flooding the exits,” said Calvin Moore, a spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership.

By comparison, six Republican House members have announced plans to retire at the end of the year, while seven are running for other offices. 

Langevin, 57, who was first elected in 2000, has become recognized as a national leader on cybersecurity. He was the first chairman of the House Armed Services Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems Subcommittee created last year and served on a commission created by the 2019 defense authorization law to improve the government’s approach to protecting its assets online.

In a column for The Providence Journal, Langevin said it was time to “chart a new course” that would allow him to stay closer to friends and family. 

Among his proudest moments in Congress, Langevin said, was his vote for President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, which he called “the most significant piece of legislation I ever supported.” He also said he would “always cherish the moment” he became the first congressman using a wheelchair to preside over the House as speaker pro tempore to mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Langevin is the first person with quadriplegia to serve in the House after he was injured in an accident in 1980, when he was a teenager.

Rhode Island has not finalized its new congressional lines for 2022, but a map that would retain the Democratic lean of its two House seats was approved by the state’s Special Commission on Reapportionment earlier this month and sent to the legislature for its approval.

McNerney, 70, was first elected in 2006 to what was then a Northern California swing district. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for his redrawn 9th District seat Solid Democratic. Under California’s new map approved by the state’s independent redistricting commission, the district would have voted for Joe Biden over Trump 55 percent to 43 percent, according to calculations by Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections. 

In a Twitter thread announcing his retirement, McNerney did not provide a reason for his decision. He focused instead on the accomplishments he said he was the most proud of, including a health center for veterans in San Joaquin County and “securing major investments in infrastructure and public safety, broadband, education, childcare, and health care access.”

McNerney’s background is atypical for a House member. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics, worked as a contractor for Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and a senior engineer at a wind turbine company and eventually ran a startup that manufactured them. 

Democrat Josh Harder, who currently represents the 10th District, said shortly after McNerney’s announcement that he would run for McNerney’s seat. The redrawn district includes part of Harder’s current seat and he has family connections to the area, he said in a statement. 

Candidates in California have until March 11 to file to run in the June 7 primary. Rhode Island’s filing deadline is June 29 for the Sept. 13 primary.

Andrew Clevenger contributed to this report.

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