House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will retire at the end of his term, he announced Monday, opening up another swing district ahead of the 2018 elections.
“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” he said in a Monday statement. “I thank my friends and colleagues with whom I have served.”
Frelinghuysen’s retirement opens up a suburban northern New Jersey seat, boosting Democrats’ chances at winning it in what’s shaping up to be a good year for the party and marking the latest in a string of GOP retirements that have further damaged the party’s chances at holding onto the House. President Trump won the district by just a one-point margin after Mitt Romney carried it by six in 2012, and Democrats had already planned to target it this fall.
He’s the latest senior Republican to decide to head for the exits — and the eighth GOP committee chairman who’s decided to hang things up. Unlike other powerful committee chairmen, Frelinghuysen just won his chairmanship and could continue to serve as chairman for five more years. That makes his retirement is especially notable — a strong sign that his decision was driven by the political headwinds Republicans face this year.
A whopping 24 House Republicans have announced their retirements or already resigned this Congress who aren’t running for higher office, compared with just seven Democrats. That retirement rate is even higher than ahead of previous wave elections like 2010, 2006 and 1994.
Frelinghuysen jumping ship is pretty much the biggest tell yet that Republicans know they will lose the House in 2018. He's one of the last Republicans left who came in riding Newt's Contract With America wave in '94 after his Republican predecessor Dean Gallo died and has since held off all challengers in a comfortably red suburban district in north Jersey...comfortably red until 2016 that is. Trump won by only a point, Frelinghuysen won 58-39% however.
He's not a stupid guy, he has a lot of clout in the state (especially as Appropriations chair in representing a state like NJ, much like Hal Rogers did prior here in Kentucky) and he knows what a freight train barreling towards him looks like. If he thought he was going to remain Appropriations chair, he would have stayed. You don't just walk out on that spot getting a huge say where the government's money goes in America.
But he's walking out on that spot anyway when he would have probably won reelection by double digits, even in a blue wave scenario. That should tell you how much trouble the GOP is in. If a numbers guy like Frelinghuysen is out, then the numbers are bad, bad bad.
They're taking the money and running...away, not for office.