Another vulnerable House Republican heads for the exit rather than run in 2020

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is the second Republican congressman to announce his retirement this week.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is the latest House Republican to announce he won't seek re-election in 2020.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is the latest House Republican to announce he won't seek re-election in 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), a virulently anti-LGBTQ six-term Republican congressman from the Houston area, announced on Thursday that he will not seek re-election next November.

While he spun the decision as wanting “another citizen-legislator to take up” his mission, it comes after he won the narrowest re-election of his career in 2018. And though the head of the House GOP’s campaign arm vowed “This will remain a Republican district for the foreseeable future,” Olson’s 51% victory last cycle, after winning more than 60% of the vote in each of his previous four races, could make that a challenge.

A day earlier, Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) announced his retirement after just two terms. The former head of the Michigan branch of Ralph Reed’s far-right theocratic organization reportedly blasted Washington for a culture of vitriol that rewards extremes. Mitchell also blasted President Donald Trump’s racist tweets as “beneath leaders.”

While Mitchell’s district is solidly Republican, Olson joins two other House Republicans whose retirements could lead to Democratic takeovers next year. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), who had been tasked with leading GOP recruitment for the 2020 election, announced last month that she would not even recruit herself as a candidate in a district won in last year’s senate race by unsuccessful Democratic nominee and then-Sen. Joe Donnelly. After winning re-election by less than 500 votes in 2018, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) announced his retirement in February. Just two House Democrats have said they plan to retire after this term.


One factor in these Republican lawmakers’ decision not to run again could be the prospect of having to run with a deeply unpopular president at the top of the ticket. Even the most recent Fox News poll, released Thursday, found that 51% of Americans disapprove of Trump.

Another reason could be fundraising. House Democrats collected $17.6 million more than their Republican counterparts in the most recent quarter, according to a recent Washington Post analysis. Facing tough re-election races and the prospect of remaining in the minority in 2020, a growing number of House Republicans seem content to call it a day.

UPDATE: On Friday, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) also announced that she will not seek re-election in 2020.