An update on US Senate retirements

Welcome to the Monday, February 28, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Inhofe announces retirement from U.S. Senate
  2. Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court 
  3. West Virginia U.S House delegation shrinking from three to two sets up primary between two representatives

Inhofe announces retirement from U.S. Senate

On Friday, Feb. 25, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced he would retire on Jan. 3, 2023. Inhofe’s current term ends in 2027. He was most recently re-elected in 2020, defeating Abby Broyles (D) 62.9% to 32.8%. His retirement will trigger a special election in November 2022. In an interview with The Oklahoman, Inhofe endorsed Luke Holland, his chief of staff, to replace him in the U.S. Senate. 

Oklahoma’s other U.S. Senator, James Lankford (R), is up for re-election this year, meaning that both Oklahoma’s senate seats will be on the November ballot. The last time a state decided two U.S. Senate elections in one year was November 2020. That year, Georgia voters decided a regular Senate election between incumbent David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) and a special Senate election between incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock (D). In 2018, Mississippi also held regular and special Senate elections. 

States have different methods for filling U.S. Senate vacancies. In 37 states, vacancies are temporarily filled by gubernatorial appointment. A special election, coinciding with the next regularly scheduled election, is then held to replace the appointee. In the remaining 13 states, a special election is required within a certain time frame to fill the vacancy. Of those 13 states, eight allow for an interim gubernatorial appointment.

Inhofe was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994. Before that, his political career included many of Oklahoma’s top political offices. He served in the state House from 1967 to 1969 and the state Senate from 1969 to 1977. From 1978 to 1984, Inhofe served as Mayor of Tulsa. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1986, a position he held until he became a U.S. Senator in 1994.

Inhofe is the longest-serving member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and the seventh most senior Senator. 

So far, six Senators whose terms end in 2023 have announced they will not seek re-election this year. Five are Republicans and one is a Democrat. 

As of February 2022, 43 members of the U.S. House have announced they will not seek re-election.

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Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court 

On Feb. 25, President Joe Biden (D) announced he would nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Stephen Breyer. Breyer announced his retirement on Jan. 27, saying he planned to serve until the court’s 2022 summer recess, which typically begins in late June or early July.

In a statement, the White House said: “Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation.”

Jackson currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Biden nominated her to the post in April 2021. The Senate voted 53-44 to confirm Jackson on June 14, 2021. Previously, Jackson was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 2013 to 2021. Jackson has also worked in private practice, as a federal public defender, on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and as a law clerk for Breyer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on Jackson’s nomination, after which the full Senate will vote on her confirmation. The confirmation vote can take place before Breyer leaves the court, with Jackson’s swearing-in delayed until his departure.

Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation vote will be the first to take place in a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split. In recent years, confirmation “yes” votes have grown more partisan. Since Justice Samuel Alito’s confirmation in 2006, nominees have received an average of 4 votes from senators who don’t caucus with the President’s party. Since 1967, when the Senate held its first roll call confirmation vote after Hawaii became the 50th state, the overall average of opposition party confirmation “yes” votes is 29. These averages do not include votes from independent or third party senators.

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West Virginia U.S House delegation shrinking from three to two sets up primary between two representatives

Thirteen candidates are running for West Virginia’s two U.S. House districts. The filing deadline to enter those races was Jan. 29. One Democrat and five Republicans are running for their respective party nominations in the 1st Congressional District, while two Democrats and five Republicans are running for their respective party nominations in the 2nd Congressional District. That’s 6.5 candidates per district, more than the 4.7 candidates per district West Virginia had in 2020 and the 6.3 in 2018. 

This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census, which resulted in West Virginia losing a U.S. House district.

The loss of the state’s 3rd Congressional District has resulted in Reps. David McKinley (District 1) and Alexander Mooney (District 2) competing in the District 2 Republican primary. Rep. Carol Miller (R), who currently represents District 3, is running in District 1. Currently, there are five U.S. House races in 2022 where two incumbents have declared their candidacy for the same congressional district. Following the 2010 census, there were 13 districts where multiple incumbents ran against each other in the 2012 primary or general elections.

Since 2012, there have only been two election cycles in West Virginia with an open seat—2014 and 2018.

West Virginia’s U.S. House primaries will take place on May 10. The candidate with the most votes wins the primary, even without a majority, so no runoff elections will take place.

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