As regular readers know, there’s a striking number of House members giving up their seats this year, but not every incumbent lawmaker is trying to exit politics. For example, of the 38 House Republicans who aren’t running for re-election this fall, roughly a third are running for statewide office.
The trouble is, some of those efforts aren’t going especially well. The Washington Post reported overnight:
Are you a House Republican thinking of running for higher office this year? Maybe think again.
On Thursday, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) became the fifth Republican lawmaker this primary season to try and fail to leverage her job in Washington for higher office. She lost the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s open governor’s race to a business executive, Bill Lee.
This is not what was supposed to happen. Diane Black, an experienced lawmaker and campaigner, entered Tennessee’s gubernatorial race as the frontrunner, and for good reason: the Republican lawmaker has close ties to the Trump White House, she helped take the lead on the GOP tax plan in her capacity as the chair of the House Budget Committee, and she had plenty of money in her campaign coffers. Black even picked up an endorsement from Vice President Mike Pence.
And yet, she apparently came in third in a six-candidate primary.
Black at least has some company. As we discussed a few months ago, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R), widely seen as a strong contender in Idaho’s gubernatorial race, also came up short in a GOP primary. Meanwhile, Reps. Todd Rokita (R) and Luke Messer (R) both lost in a Senate primary in Indiana; and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) lost in a Senate primary in West Virginia. (North Carolina’s Robert Pittenger and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford lost in House primaries – the only House Republicans to date to lose in re-election primaries.)
Why is this important? A few reasons.
First, these results are unexpected. In recent history, House members looking for a promotion to statewide office tend to do pretty well. That’s less true this year.
Second, for all the talk about the Republican tax plan helping GOP members of Congress, Black’s loss is a reminder that the regressive tax breaks are lacking in electoral value.
And third, it’s getting easier to believe there’s an anti-DC sentiment brewing.
It’s best, of course, not to overstate matters. Not all House Republicans seeking promotions have struggled, as Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lou Barletta’s (R-Pa.) primary victories help show. Indeed, just last night, as Diane Black (R) lost her gubernatorial primary in Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) won her Senate primary in the same state.
But the larger arc is nevertheless the sort of trend that should probably make incumbents feel a little nervous.