Kentucky's Only Democratic Congressman Won't Run for Re-Election in 2022

Kentucky's only Democratic congressman announced that he will not run for re-election in 2022, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, the Associated Press reported.

John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee and a critical player in pushing for President Joe Biden's agenda to expand the country's social safety net, made the announcement on Tuesday.

Yarmuth was first elected to Congress in 2006, when he unseated a Republican incumbent in the Louisville-area district. Both of Kentucky's U.S. senators and the other five members of the state's U.S. House delegation are Republicans.

"The truth be told, I never expected to be in Congress this long," he said in a video posted on Twitter. "I always said I couldn't imagine being here longer than 10 years. After every election, I was asked how long I intended to serve, but I never had an answer. Today I do. This term will be my last."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

John Yarmuth
Democratic U.S. Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky announced on October 12, 2021, that he would not seek another term in next year's elections. Above, Yarmuth speaks at a news conference on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, at the U.S. Capitol on September 21, 2021, in Washington. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The top-ranking Democrat in Kentucky's state Senate quickly announced he would run for the seat.

Yarmuth, who will be 75 when his final term ends, said he's in excellent health but acknowledged that the "significant physical demands" of the job will become even more challenging.

The congressman, known for his wit and easygoing demeanor, displayed grit in defeating Republican incumbent Anne Northup to first win the seat in Kentucky's largest city. On Tuesday, Yarmuth spoke in personal terms about his decision to leave Congress after his current term ends, mentioning his "incomparable joy" in spending time with his young grandson.

"The desire to have more control of my time and the years I have left has become a high priority," Yarmuth said.

NBC News was the first to report Yarmuth's announcement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Yarmuth a "fierce and extraordinarily effective champion" for his constituents and people across the country.

Yarmuth said his focus for the remainder of his time in Congress will be on furthering his work on domestic policy.

"While I have just become a lame duck, I intend to spend the next 15 months working hard to build on my proudest moment: the passage of the American Rescue Plan," he said, referring to the legislation that provided massive relief for U.S. citizens during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yarmuth said Congress can "still do much more for the American people."

"And since that progress will unfortunately not be done on a bipartisan basis, my chairmanship of the House Budget Committee puts me in a pivotal position to help build an even better future for our citizens," he said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who frequently sparred with Yarmuth over high-profile measures, praised the congressman for his many years of public service.

"We always shared a deep affinity for our hometown, Louisville, and a strong sense of loyalty to our constituents and neighbors," McConnell said.

Yarmuth had already drawn a primary challenge from state Representative Attica Scott, but the veteran congressman had been considered the prohibitive favorite for re-election in 2022. Scott, who is Black, attracted national attention when she pushed for criminal justice reforms after the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

The Louisville-area congressional district is one of the few remaining Democratic strongholds in Republican-leaning Kentucky. The state's GOP legislative leaders have not revealed how they intend to redraw congressional boundaries, a process required now that the 2020 census results are in.

State Senator Morgan McGarvey, the top-ranking Democrat in the GOP-controlled Kentucky Senate, quickly announced that he will run for Yarmuth's seat next year.

Yarmuth had easily won re-election in recent cycles, as his district became increasingly blue. Still, the retirement of a Democrat who held a senior leadership position sends yet another ominous sign about the party's chances heading into next year's midterms, when its thin majority in both chambers will be at stake.

The party that wins control of the White House typically losses congressional seats in subsequent elections—as President Donald Trump and Republicans did in 2018.

Yarmuth becomes the 10th Democrat to announce plans to retire before the 2022 election. Many of those joining him hail from more hotly contested swing districts that could flip Republican and ultimately decide control of the House. The GOP has already announced that it is targeting many of the seats being vacated, including that of Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Conor Lamb, who is leaving the House to run for an open Senate seat in his state; and those of Democratic Representatives Filemon Vela of Texas, Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Ron Kind of Wisconsin.

Republicans have seen 10 of their own House members leave office or announce plans not to seek re-election next year, though many are in seats that should remain easily controlled by the GOP.

Rep. John Yarmuth
Democratic U.S. Representative John Yarmuth, who as chairman of the House Budget Committee has played a key role in pushing for President Joe Biden's efforts to expand the nation's social safety net, announced on October 12, 2021, that he will not seek another term next year. Above, Yarmuth (joined at left by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff) talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington on September 21, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo