It’s happening on both sides of the aisle. Three of the Republicans who voted for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment — Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) — have announced they won’t seek reelection.
Among Democrats, just last week prominent moderate Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) announced he will not run again, adding him to a list of retiring party moderates that includes Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas).
Roughly half of the 19 members in the centrist Blue Dog Coalition are retiring, facing progressive primary challengers or running for another office — including co-chair Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). Another Blue Dog, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), is locked in a contentious member-on-member primary against Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) due to redistricting.
The rise of progressive primary challengers has increased pressure on a number of Democratic moderates. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) faced a challenge on his left flank from state Rep. Attica Scott before he decided to retire. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), before announcing a run for governor in November, faced the prospect of a second challenge from progressive Melanie D’Arrigo. Then there’s Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who isn’t retiring, but faces a tough March 1 primary rematch from Justice Democrats-backed progressive Jessica Cisneros.
Once the moderates leave the chamber, there’s a good chance they’ll be replaced by more sharply ideological lawmakers. Retiring moderate Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) explicitly said his successor should be a moderate, something New Jersey liberals were quick to push back against.
Cooper himself was already facing a left wing primary challenge from Democrat Odessa Kelly before his Tennessee district was redrawn.
The race to succeed Cooper has already been nationalized — on the Republican side, former President Donald Trump quickly weighed in by issuing a statement urging Morgan Ortagus, a former State Department spokesperson in his administration, to jump into the race to replace Cooper, calling her “an absolute warrior for America First and MAGA!” and promising his endorsement if she launches a campaign.