West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller (D) does not plan to seek a sixth term to the Senate. Rockefeller was governor of WV prior to being elected to Congress in 1984. He now serves as Chairman of the Commerce Committee and Chair of Finance’s Subcommittee on Health Care. As a 75 year old public servant, the Senator has cited wanting more time to spend with his family. The open seat in WV poses a potential pick-up opportunity for Republicans – Mitt Romney won WV by 26 points last November. The graphic in this article demonstrates how WV has shifted from a blue to a red state over the past 40 years. However, it’s not an automatic lock for Republicans considering the governor’s mansion, the state legislature and the other Senate seat are all in Democratic hands.
Georgia - Saxby Chambliss (R) announced his 2014 retirement stating the increased partisanship and lack of leadership in Washington as his reason for departure. Chambliss was a member of the “Gang of Six” and then the “Gang of Eight” formed to reduce the nation’s debt and went out on a party limb conceding that tax increases may be necessary to solve the nation’s debt crisis, sparking several Republicans to begin weighing a primary challenge. Expect a crowded primary field and for the seat to remain in conservative hands, but it’s worth noting NC was the only other state Romney won by a smaller margin. Georgia’s rapid population growth has led to it becoming one of only 13 states that have a minority population of over 40%. Republicans’ inability to connect with minority voters could pose a challenge for them in the future.
Iowa - To the surprise of many, Tom Harkin (D) announced he also would not seek another term in Congress. Harkin is Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and at age 73 said he is ready to step aside and let a younger crop of leaders serve. Harkin was not exactly an ally of the business community, receiving 0% on BIPAC’s P2 Voting Record for the 112th Congress. But his departure creates a competitive open seat that has both Republicans and Democrats in the state eyeing it closely. Iowa is considered a swing state, electing Barack Obama to the presidency twice, has a Republican governor, and split control in the state legislature.
Nebraska – Another surprise retirement is first term Senator Mike Johanns (R). He announced over the weekend that he will not be seeking a second term, stating his wish to move on from public office and his frustrations with the partisan tones and Congressional stalemate. Johanns serves on four committees, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Appropriations, Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Veteran’s Affairs. Traditionally seen as a hard line conservative, Johanns recently showed he was willing to reach across the aisle and cut deals as a member of the debt reduction group, the “Gang of Eight.” He is the second member of this Gang to announce his retirement. The seat is expected to stay Republican, but the lack of an incumbent in the race could give the Democrats a potential pick up seat.
New Jersey – The Frank Lautenberg vs. Cory Booker showdown is coming to an end, with Senator Lautenberg (D) announcing his retirement last week. Lautenberg is 89 and has served over 30 years in the Senate. He currently serves on the Appropriations, Commerce Science and Transportation, and the Environment and Public Works Committees. The competitive race here will be the Democratic primary, with several possible contenders already being discussed, including Mayor Cory Booker (D) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D). Lautenberg plans to spend his remaining years in the senate focusing on gun safety laws, protecting children from toxic chemicals and helping working class NJ families.