Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) announced Wednesday that he would leave Congress and politics in general at the end of this term and return to the justice system. Rep. Gowdy is just the most recent of many congressional Republicans to resign, retire, or seek new offices, leaving their seats and their committee positions less secure from Democratic hopefuls in the upcoming elections later this year. With so many established GOP lawmakers moving on, a question must be asked. What happens now?
Representative Gowdy has served as the representative for South Carolina’s 4th district since January 5, 2011, and became Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in June of 2017. He also currently serves on the House Committees on Intelligence, Ethics, and Judiciary. He led the investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi when he chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Before serving as a Representative, Trey Gowdy worked as a federal prosecutor and the 7th Circuit Solicitor. It is to this type of work he wishes to return, as he finds it more rewarding. In his statement, he wrote:
“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.”
His announcement – made shortly after the train carrying GOP lawmakers to a winter retreat crashed into a garbage truck in Virginia – was reasonably short and to the point. He spent all but the second, third, and final paragraphs expressing his gratitude to those who worked with him and who made being a Congressman both possible and bearable. His only reasons given were that he found work in the justice system far more rewarding than the politics and that it is just his time to go. He closed with a reference to the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, saying that “There is a time to start and a time to end. There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”
The man certainly has the right to seek a more satisfying career, but his leaving only makes an already worrying situation even worse for the GOP. He is the eighth Republican committee chairman to announce his retirement. ABC News gives the following list:
- Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas — House Financial Services Committee
- Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas — House Science, Space and Technology Committee
- Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia — House Judiciary Committee
- Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania — House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
- Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Mississippi — House Administration Committee
- Rep. Ed Royce, R-California — House Foreign Affairs Committee
- Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey — House Appropriations Committee
- Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
According to the Casualty List for the 115th Congress, up to date as of February 1, There are 41 House Republicans either retiring or seeking other offices, compared to only 17 Democrats, and eight who have resigned, compared to just two Democrats. Three GOP Senators have announced their retirement this year, compared to one Democrat Resignation: Al Franken (D-MN).
While many of these positions are in solidly Republican districts – and will likely remain that way – it does tend to be easier for opposing party contenders to pick up seats when they aren’t running against an established incumbent. In other words, every one of these GOP Congressmen who resigns is one less piece in the Republican armor that keeps Democrats from taking control – especially since the Democrats are losing far fewer of their established members. As it sits right now, Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take control of the house – and that’s only if they don’t lose any of their own. But 41 Republican spots just became more available – even if only just slightly.