WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was at a groundbreaking event for a new LG Electronics appliance factory in Clarksville last August when he realized it was time to retire.
“It was a beautiful day, the breeze was blowing, I looked out over the crowd, it was a great day for me,” Corker recalled. “I just knew then that I was not supposed to run for a third term.” [restrict
But what finally broke him was a fundraiser at the end of September. “That night I just — it was just over. I just couldn’t do it. Just could not,” he said.
He told Yahoo News he went home, fell asleep at 8 p.m. and woke up at 1 a.m. He let his staff know his decision when he came into the Capitol the next day. “This has been the greatest privilege of my life,” Corker said, but he concluded it’s time to go.
The powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one of more than a dozen congressional Republicans so far this year who have announced their decision to retire without seeking another office, a trend that could make it harder for the GOP to hold on to its majorities next year. In the past week alone, three GOP lawmakers have announced their retirements. By contrast, just three Democrats have announced they will retire so far this year.
And the coast-to-coast wins for Democrats from Washington to Virginia to New Jersey in statewide elections on Tuesday may also spook more Republicans in vulnerable seats, as they ponder jumping ship before a potential wave election.
So far, the number of total departing members is still within historical averages for a cycle, but one source close to House Republicans says another wave of members are waiting to announce their retirements after the New Year. Each GOP retirement in a competitive district helps Democrats in their quest to flip the 24 House seats they need to regain control of at least one part of Washington.
Many of those already heading to the exits have expressed frustration at the current state of play in Washington, where entire congressional agendas can be scrambled by a single tweet from the new president. Others were turned off by the unexpected ferocity of anger from their constituents over Republicans’ attempts to repeal Obamacare. Still others say they never wanted to make a career out of being in Congress and are simply ready to move on.
“You’ve got this administration that’s taken the fun out of dysfunction,” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told Yahoo News. Dent is a moderate Republican in a competitive district who’s retiring after more than a decade in his seat. “Just the tweeting every day — outlandish statements, inappropriate comments. We spend much of our time just reacting to those sorts of things instead of focusing on the big policy issues of the day.” [/restrict]