Another Republican politician is packing up his bags and heading home. On Monday, New Jersey GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that he would retire in January, bring the total number of House Republicans who have resigned or intend to retire up to 23. (Another 11 Republicans are vacating their seats to run for either governor or Senate.) Frelinghuysen, the scion of one of America’s oldest (and least well-known) political dynasties, represents a Republican-leaning North Jersey seat that President Donald Trump won by less than one percentage point in 2016, and was a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee target going into this fall even before he stepped aside.
Some of those seats, such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami-Dade district and Rep. Darrell Issa’s in Southern California, are top Democratic targets, but many—particularly in deep-red parts of Texas—are generally considered safe for Republicans. Every member has their own considerations, but the through-line is that Republicans in positions of power have concluded that in the next two years, their jobs are only going to get worse. Frelinghuysen is one of eight committee chairs who is leaving.
Although he has held his seat since 1995, Frelinghuysen appeared to have been caught off guard by the grassroots progressive opposition to Trump in his district. He was out-raised by two Democratic challengers in the third quarter of last year, and when he received an angry letter from a constituent last spring complaining about his inaccessibility, Frelinghuysen sent the letter to a board member of the bank where she worked. (The constituent left her job at the bank.) Around the same time, he told constituents during a tele-townhall “it would be nice for you to back off.”