Two Democrats Retiring From Congress After Speaker Drama

Reps. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) are leaving Congress.
Two Democrats Retiring From Congress After Speaker Drama
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) speaks as activists rally against the legislative filibuster outside of the Supreme Court in Washington on June 24, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are departing Congress after the drama-filled month that saw the House remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker and later elect his replacement.

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), 61, will leave Congress in 2025 after serving for nearly two decades, he announced on Oct. 26.

Mr. Sarbanes worked with nonprofits before entering the House in 2007 and said he has found himself “drawn back to that kind of work—wanting to explore the many opportunities to serve that exist outside of elected office.”

“With that in mind, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2024. While I am making this announcement today—specifically for the benefit of candidates interested in running for my seat in next year’s election—I’m not going anywhere for the next fourteen months. That’s what’s left in my term and I’m committed to finishing strong,” he added.

The longtime member said the decision to leave was not easy but that he feels hopeful about America’s future because the new Democrat leadership “is making all the right moves to bring Democrats back into the majority in January 2025.”

Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.), 41, who just assumed office in January after nine years in the state Senate, also said he is not running for reelection in 2024.

Mr. Jackson said in a video statement he will run for North Carolina attorney general in a bid to “go after political corruption.”

Mr. Jackson’s move stemmed from North Carolina’s redistricting, approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled state legislature. The updated map reworks multiple districts Democrats currently hold to favor the GOP.

That includes North Carolina’s 14th congressional district, which covers most of Charlotte.

The new map could be challenged in court.

Reps. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.), 47, and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), 66, are also facing tougher battles. Mr. Nickel said in a statement he would not run in any of the “gerrymandered districts” and would decide on running at all only after “the courts have spoken.” Ms. Manning said before the vote that the map was made “to ensure Republicans win more House seats so they can maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives” and that she would keep fighting “to make sure the people of North Carolina get the representation they deserve.”

Republicans currently control the House with 221 members. Democrats have 212. There are two vacancies.

Republicans outperformed Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections, flipping control of the lower chamber. Democrats retained control of the Senate, gaining one seat there.

Eleven other Democrats have already said they’re leaving Congress to retire or run for another office, including Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Andy Kim (D-Calif.), and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.). Five Republicans are not running for reelection, including Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), and Dan Bishop (R-N.C.).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not yet commented on Mr. Sarbanes and Mr. Jackson leaving office. Delanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that Mr. Jackson “has had one foot out the door for months, and it’s about time he stepped aside to make room for a representative who truly cares about serving North Carolina in Congress.”

Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Md.), third from left, with colleagues in Washington on May 25, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Md.), third from left, with colleagues in Washington on May 25, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One Seat Safe; Another Not

Mr. Sarbanes represents Maryland’s 3rd congressional district. Maryland is a blue state, and Mr. Sarbanes easily won the last election with 60 percent of the vote.

Political handicappers rate the seat as safe for Democrats, meaning Democrats are expected to keep control of it.

Only one Democrat has declared for the race so far, nurse Kristin Lyman Nabors. No new announcements have been made as of yet in the wake of Mr. Sarbanes’ pending retirement. Several state lawmakers have been floated as potential candidates.

North Carolina’s 14th congressional district, on the other hand, could be flipped by Republicans, especially if the new map holds.

The redrawn district went for then-President Donald Trump with 58 percent of the vote, versus 48 percent for President Joe Biden, according to a Politico analysis.

No Democrats have announced a bid yet for the redrawn seat. U.S. Army veteran Pat Harrigan, a Republican, had already announced a bid.

The districts represented by Ms. Manning and Mr. Nickel also went for President Trump in 2020 while a fourth district, represented by Rep. Don Davis (D-N.C.), 52, is also closer to even.

Some political handicappers moved North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, represented by Mr. Davis, to a toss-up in light of the new map.

Mr. Davis highlighted the development on social media.

“We need your help, now more than ever, to win this one again,” he said, asking for donations.

Former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), 54, who was running for North Carolina, said Wednesday he would seek to represent the redrawn 6th Congressional District, which is represented by Ms. Manning.

New House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), elected after about a month of drama, has endorsed Mr. Walker.

Mr. Walker left the House in 2021 and lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

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