The Local and National Implications of Congressman John Yarmuth’s Retirement

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth’s retirement announcement sent a ripple through Kentucky politics on Tuesday, with implications both at the national and local levels.

Yarmuth, D-Louisville, will be leaving office in 15-months at the end of his current term, but other campaigns will have to readjust in the face of the news and Congress hangs at a historic tipping point.

In Louisville, Yarmuth’s retirement means a new calculus for those seeking to replace Greg Fischer as the Mayor of Louisville. An open seat Congressional race will see millions spent in advertising in Jefferson Co., attention focused at the top of the ticket, and a different “universe” of voters to contend with – all of that equals more money they have to raise to compete.

To “break through” the noise of a Congressional contest Louisville’s mayoral candidates will now have to dig deep to buy airtime, and it will be more difficult to garner attention they likely would have gotten for free in earned media. It also adds a level of unpredictability in the voter stats that those campaigns we’re already assuming given numerous campaigns with Yarmuth on the ticket. Republicans could also field a top-tier Congressional candidate which means the Mayoral race may not be as easy as it should be given the voter registration and trends.

There are also national takeaways that we can presume. Historically, the party of the president loses seats in midterm elections. While, Yarmuth could safely hold his Congressional District others in Congress won’t be so lucky. We can turn to history to see that those midterm shifts generally lead to the opposition party gaining control of one or both of the houses of Congress. That’s exactly what Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown presumed based on Yarmuth’s announcement.

“Chairman Yarmuth’s announcement shows Democrats realize their chances of maintaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives are slim to none,” Brown said in a statement on Tuesday. “We look forward to doing our part to helping retire Nancy Pelosi as speaker in 2022.”

The House of Representatives currently favors Democrats who hold 220 seats, Republicans control 212 seats, and there are three vacancies. In the Senate the numbers are even more precarious with 50 Republican and 50 Democrats with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the President of the Senate and holding the ability to cast tiebreaking votes.

Yarmuth, once as progressive of a politician as the U.S. Congress had seen, is now viewed as a moderate when viewed against the current progressive Democratic politicians, like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We can also wonder how both party’s shift in ideology moving forward post-President Trump.