Politics

Five Republican Senators Are Retiring. What Does That Mean For The GOP?

The 2022 midterms will be the first time many federal lawmakers face voters since the deadly, pro-Trump U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Republican Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Shelby (AL) have all announced their retirements in 2021. | Getty Images
Republican Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Shelby (AL) have all announced their retirements in 2021. | Getty Images

As the Republican party works to determine its identity in the post-Trump presidency era, at least five GOP senators won’t be seeking a second term — and that has big implications for both parties. For Republicans, it’s either a chance for more moderate or more Trumpian candidates to run and win, while Democrats face the challenge of holding onto their narrow majority in both chambers of Congress. The 2022 midterms will determine how much President Joe Biden can get done legislatively during the second half of his term — and it will be the first time many federal lawmakers face voters since the deadly, pro-Trump U.S. Capitol insurrection.

In 2021 so far, three Republican U.S. senators — Roy Blunt (MO), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Shelby (AL) — have announced they won’t be seeking another term. Meanwhile, two others — Pat Toomey (PA) and Richard Burr (NC), both of whom voted to convict former President Trump in his impeachment trial — had announced their retirements prior to January. 

While one of the retirees, Shelby, is an octogenarian — others are retiring at an age either younger than or close to the average in the gerontocracy that is the U.S. Senate: nearly 63 years old. 

As FiveThirtyEight reported, “no Democratic senators are running for reelection in states won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, while Republicans are defending two seats in states won by President Biden,” including Toomey’s seat and Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat in Wisconsin. Johnson, a Trump loyalist who has played down the U.S. Capitol insurrection, hasn’t announced whether he’ll run again, but has suggested he may not. 

Here’s who definitely won’t be running in 2021:

Sen. Roy Blunt (MO)

Sen. Blunt, 71, who announced his retirement March 8, is the latest Republican to prepare an exit from the U.S. Senate. Politico reported that Missouri is not likely to be competitive among Democrats, and potential GOP candidates include former Gov. Eric Greitens, Rep. Ann Wagner, Rep. Jason Smith, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

In a video statement, Blunt said, “After 14 general election victories — three to county office, seven to the United States House of Representatives, and four statewide elections — I won’t be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year.”

Sen. Rob Portman (OH)

Sen. Portman, 65, made a surprise announcement in January that he won’t seek re-election in 2022, attributing “partisan rancor” as part of his reasoning for leaving the job. Unlike most of his GOP colleagues, Sen. Portman rescinded his endorsement for Trump a month before the 2016 election, the Ohio Dispatch reported, after the Washington Post reported on the Access Hollywood tape in which the former president bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. However, he voted to acquit the ex-president in both of his Senate impeachment trials. 

While Democrats are eyeing Ohio for potential gains, only one Democrat — Sen. Sherrod Brown, an incumbent — has won out of 14 statewide contests since 2014, FiveThirtyEight reported. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is one likely contender for the seat. NBC News’ Henry Gomez has put forth a bunch of possible Republican candidates, ranging from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Attorney General Dave Yost, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and former state treasurer Josh Mandel to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a Trump loyalist who pushed the ex-president’s baseless voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Sen. Richard Shelby (AL) 

Sen. Shelby, 86, who first joined the Senate as a Democrat in 1986, announced on February 8 that he wouldn’t seek a seventh term in the upper chamber. “For everything, there is a season,” he said.

Shelby switched his affiliation to the Republican party in 1994.

Sen. Pat Toomey (PA)

Sen. Toomey, 59, announced in October 2020 that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection and also ruled out a potential run for governor. Toomey was one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, joining all 50 Democrats.

In a swing state that shifted blue to Biden in the 2020 election, Pennsylvania 2022 is likely to be a crowded race. Several Republican contenders are considering the open seat. The state’s Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) has already announced he’ll run for the seat, and so has progressive state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Other reported Democratic prospects include the more moderate Rep. Conor Lamb and pro-labor Rep. Brendan Boyle.

Sen. Richard Burr (NC)

Sen. Burr, 65, announced back in 2016 that he was serving his final term in the Senate. He is the state’s senior senator and was also one of the seven GOPers who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial.

Our Newsletter
By Signing Up, I Agree to the Terms and Privacy Policy.