Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) said on Feb. 15 that she’ll retire in 2022, making her the 30th Democrat to not seek reelection in the 2022 midterm elections, which are widely expected to fall heavily in favor of Republicans.
“As I turn to the next chapter of my own personal and professional story, I do so with profound thanks to the community leaders, colleagues and staff who have lived our shared commitment to service with courage and humility,” Rice said in a statement announcing her impending retirement.
She said that she would spend the rest of her term focusing on “protecting our democracy and serving my constituents,” referencing Democrats’ claims that the Republican Party is purportedly involved in a massive effort to undermine democracy by approving more stringent voting laws.
Rice didn’t detail her decision in the statement. Despite the fact that Republicans are expected to make wide inroads into the House in 2022, Rice hails from a strongly blue district, where Democrats have won the past several elections by 20-point margins or more.
Rice is a relatively new face in the House. Rice was first elected in 2014—when Republicans made otherwise wide gains in the House—for New York’s 4th Congressional District, which lies just east of New York City.
The district has been heavily Democrat-leaning for some time. Since 1992, Democrats have won every presidential and congressional election in New York’s 4th Congressional District, by at least a 10-point margin in most cases, though Republicans have been far more successful in this district than they have been in New York City.
It last voted for a Republican in 1994, when Republicans took back the House for the first time in decades. In 1996, the district was turned blue and has since remained strongly in Democrats’ hands.
Rice got her start in politics in 2005, when she ran a successful campaign to become district attorney for Nassau County, New York. She remained in the post and fought off all potential challengers until 2014, when she launched a successful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Her ultimate victory in that race was fairly narrow for the district. She won 53 percent of the vote compared to Republican challenger Bruce Blakeman’s 47 percent.
By 2016, the district had gone decidedly blue. Rice defeated Republican David Gurfein with 59.6 percent of the vote to Gurfein’s 40.4 percent. In 2018, she expanded her margins, winning 61.3 percent of the vote to the Republican candidate’s 38.7 percent.
Rice has strongly pushed for legislation that would restrict gun ownership while she has been in the House.
Rice found herself under fire after she wrote on Twitter in August 2017 that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its then-spokeswoman Dana Loesch constituted a national security threat.
“I’m just going to say it. [The NRA and Loesch] are quickly becoming domestic security threats under President Trump. We can’t ignore that,” Rice wrote.
She didn’t suggest what this accusation meant from a legislative standpoint.
Loesch called for Rice to retire for the Twitter post, although nothing came of this demand.
In a more recent Twitter post, Rice referenced the Parkland shooting and renewed her calls for federal legislation restricting gun ownership.
“Four years ago a high school shooting left 17 people dead and many more injured. Today, I stand with the Parkland community, and with the victims of gun violence across the country. For their sake, Congress must pass gun safety legislation to prevent more senseless deaths,” she wrote.
Rice has also walked in lockstep with the Biden administration since it took office in January 2021.
According to data compiled by elections website FiveThirtyEight, Rice has voted with President Joe Biden 100 percent of the time since Biden has taken office.
While speculation has been rampant that the retirements are connected to House Democrats’ poor prospects in the next election, Rice sits in an extremely safe district.
Republicans are expected to take control of the House in November.
Historically, the minority party does extremely well in midterm elections. In light of a series of controversial policy decisions by the Biden administration, Republicans consider their prospects to be extremely good in 2022, an attitude that has only been bolstered by the retirement of prominent Democrats such as House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).