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House Republicans Lose One

Rep. Bill Jenkins (R) announced his retirement from his eastern Tennessee 1st district today, becoming the 14th House Republican not planning to seek re-election this November.

"Serving in the Congress is a great honor and a great responsibility," Jenkins said in a statement released to the local media. "Both should be shared."

Jenkins vacates a strongly Republican seat in Tennessee where President Bush received 68 percent of the vote in 2004 -- his strongest showing in any of the state's nine congressional districts. Given those numbers, Republicans start the open seat race with a major edge.

Among the GOPers being mentioned as possible candidates are: state Sen. Ron Ramsey; state Reps. David Davis, Jason Mumpower and Steve Godsey; Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Sevier County District Attorney Al Schmutzer Jr. Both Venable and Schmutzer ran unsuccessfully in the 11-way 1996 Republican primary. Schmutzer took 15 percent while Venable took 13 percent. Jenkins led the field with 18 percent and won the nomination in a runoff against Jim Holcomb.

Although Jenkins seat is not expected to be competitive this fall, it could be an ill omen for House Republicans hoping to limit their retirements (and subsequent open seat vulnerability) in the current political climate, which is tilted against their party.

Fourteen Republicans are not seeking re-election but only six (at most) are being seriously contested between the two parties. Eight Democrats are retiring with four of those seats seen as potentially competitive.

The combined 22 House retirements -- if it remained static -- would be the lowest number since the 1984 cycle. In 2004, 34 Members did not seek re-election while there were 35 retirements in 2002 and 30 in 2000. The highest number of retirements in recent cycles came in 1992 when 65 members opted not to seek re-election.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 15, 2006; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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The way things are beginning to shape up as of this date, republicians will again hold on to seat. What is suprising, it looks as if Dr. Phil Roe has made amazing strides in the republician primary and probably will emerge as the republician canidate and probably the general election winner. He is a newcomer as far as politics goes, but is vice-mayor of Johnson City and is well respected and apparently impressing people on the campaign trail. It looks as if the republicians will again emerge the victor in this race.

Posted by: Larry | June 5, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

To the best of my knowledge, Tennessee neither then had nor now has a runoff system for either the primary or general election. Hence, soon-to-be-ex-Rep Jenkins won with far short of a majority (18% or so) of the primary election votes.

Posted by: Nick | February 16, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are the lamest, stupidest and most stubborn in the face of reality. Corruption, Leaks, Lies and Death.

To keep supporting this quasi Nazi Cheney regime after having 5 years of nothing but bad news for the real owners of this country The People, is really the true shame of our beautiful land.

Bush was never elected.
To be re-elected you must FIRST be elected.

Bush might be in office but he's totally illegitimate and a puppet. Cheney runs the show.

Furthermore, I think the neocons planned and or allowed 911 to happen. 4 planes flying lost for 2 hours is farfetched in all but the most ignorant fools out there.

Wake up!

Posted by: Liberal Patriot | February 16, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Jay - we tried that already... in 1861. Didn't turn out so good. Plus, it strands NC liberals like me.

And if the political news looks like it leans Democrat, that's because the political climate leans Democrat. Seriously. We Dems had the same complaint in '02 and '04 before we lost all those seats.

Posted by: Jeff | February 16, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Troy- Republicans may not takeover a single seat in either the House or the Senate or takeover a single governorship this year. That's the reality.

Posted by: Not Troy | February 15, 2006 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Hey Brent,

Hey man, you're kinda wrong about that. Although, you probably think the New York Times is completely mainstream and that the media has a conservative bias.

Posted by: Troy | February 15, 2006 8:22 PM | Report abuse

There is so much contempt between red and blue states, it makes me wonder why we don't just split up, like they did on czechoslovakia.

I wish the bluestate-redstate schism would just happen already so that the goings-on in Dixieland were of no consequence to folks living in liberal NJ, like myself.

Posted by: jay lassiter | February 15, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

It's alright Troy is just trying his Tucker Carlson impression out labeling anything he doesn't like as outragous. Bravo Troy you almost have tucker down pat!

Posted by: Brent | February 15, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

"House Republicans Lose One" is an awfully misleading title. The GOP has not "lost" anything yet. And anyone who knows even the slightest bit about Tennessee politics knows that Rep. Jenkins' seat will remain in GOP hands in '06 unless Hell freezes over.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Chris is at all unfair, and the fact that the Internuts (my name for the so-called "netroots") flame him every time he even remotely downplays a Democrat or says something positive about a Republican bears it out.

Go through the archives and you will see he does a decent amount of both.

And of course, we all know what the Internuts did to that poor ombudslady who made an honest mistake.

Posted by: Silent Cal | February 15, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey Everyone,
I'm waiting for the day when Chris Cillizza's blog will either say something positive about Republicans or something negative about Democrats.

If anyone took Chris Cillizza's blog seriously, you would be lead to believe that Republicans will not win any House or Senate races on the ballot this fall anywhere, along with losing every governorship the have.

Chris, please give us some reality just one day between now and election day.

Posted by: Troy | February 15, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I had the same question JL has. Also are either party older then the others. Is this a trend of there being lots of older Republicans that are deciding to get out or are the ages around the same? Just curious.

Posted by: Andy R | February 15, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I count 9 retirements including Menendez. By my count there are open Dem seats in FL 11, HI-02, MD-03, NJ-13, NY-11, OH-6, OH-13, TN-09 and VT-AL. Perhaps Vermont is the difference as Sanders isn't technically a Dem.

Posted by: Bothwell | February 15, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Tennessee's 1st Congressional District has not elected a Democrat since before the Civil War. It is the most Republican district in Tennessee. As a result, Rep. Jenkins retirement has zero significance for the GOP's numbers in Congress.

Also, State Sen. Ramsey has announced that he will not be a candidate for Rep. Jenkins' seat.

Posted by: OLT | February 15, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

How does this cycle compare with past cycles at this same point? I'm wondering if it's not unusual to only have 22 retirements by mid February but maybe the rest of them tend to come by late March.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | February 15, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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