Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, announced Tuesday he will retire after 2014, meaning Democrats will likely cede his heavily Republican-leaning district in the next election. Matheson is the first House Democrat to outright retire; the other Democrats not running again are seeking higher office next year.
President Obama won just 30 percent in Matheson’s district in 2012, the lowest share in any Democratic-held district and Obama’s 25th-worst district nationwide. Matheson’s Blue Dog moderate voting record and brand name — his father was Utah’s governor three decades ago — barely protected him from the Republican tide: Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who is running for the Republican nomination again in 2014, finished fewer than 1,000 votes behind Matheson.
Love has been raising money and campaigning for months already and now becomes one of the biggest early favorites to join the House as a freshman in 2015. She would be the first African-American Republican woman in Congress if she wins.
Meanwhile, Matheson’s retirement continues the decline of two overlapping Democratic groups: Blue Dogs and Democrats who opposed Nancy Pelosi’s bid to continue leading their caucus after the electoral shellacking of 2010. There are just 15 Blue Dog Democrats in the House now, down from 26 in the previous Congress and 54 in the Congress before that. Meanwhile, 19 Democrats publicly opposed Pelosi for speaker on the House floor in January 2011, and Matheson will become the 11th to leave the House at the end of his term.