Carmel Democratic Rep. Sam Farr's retirement Thursday was sudden, but not shocking: Farr is 74 years old and has served in Congress for more than two decades.
"I think what really hit me is this becoming 75 and realizing, 'Oh my God, my body is not going to be healthy forever, so I’d rather have some healthy years like my grandchildren.' And I watched people stay in Congress too long, and I didn’t want to be like them," Farr said Thursday while announcing he will not seek re-election next year.
But Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said there's something else at play, too: Farr is not the only senior Democrat to retire recently, either in California or nationally. In fact, 21 of the state's 52 congressional representatives have been elected in the past five years
"The average seniority in Congress has fluctuated over the years -- recently, we are seeing Democrats often retiring at somewhat higher rate than Republicans," Pitney said. "Here's the problem for Democrats in the House of Representatives ... if you are in the minority party you have practically no chance of enacting major legislation under your own name.
"It's very frustrating," he added.