“I always said I couldn’t imagine being here longer than 10 years,” Yarmuth said in a video posted on social media Tuesday afternoon. “After every election, I was asked how long I intended to serve, and I never had an answer. Today, I do: This term will be my last.”
News of Yarmuth’s retirement was first reported by NBC News.
Yarmuth said that he is in excellent health but that he will be 75 by the time his current term in Congress ends, and “the desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left has become a high priority.”
“Candidly, I have found new and incomparable joy in spending time with my young grandson, and I’d like to spend more of my golden years with my family in Louisville,” he said in the video.
In addition to steering President Biden’s agenda through Congress, Yarmuth said he “will be working hard to ensure that our community is represented in Congress by the best possible Democratic man or woman.”
State Rep. Attica Scott (D) announced in July that she was launching a primary challenge against Yarmuth. “I am running for Congress for the Louisvillians who have asked me for years to run, including the Black women who have never had a representative from Kentucky in Congress who looks like us,” Scott said in announcing her bid, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D) announced Tuesday afternoon that he also was joining the race.
Kentucky’s 3rd District has been in Democratic hands since 2007, when Yarmuth took office after ousting Rep. Anne Northup (R). The district includes almost all of Jefferson County, the most populous and diverse in the state, and leans heavily Democratic; even so, Northup represented it in Congress for a decade.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ campaign arm, cast Yarmuth’s announcement as a sign of the tough terrain Democrats face in 2022.
“Smart Democrats know their days in the majority are numbered, so they are retiring or seeking other offices,” NRCC spokesman Mike Berg said in a statement.
While Kentucky has not yet begun its redistricting process, as the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, Yarmuth faced the prospect of state Republicans breaking apart his district and making it unwinnable for a Democrat through redistricting.
One reason state GOP lawmakers may choose not to divvy up the population among other conservative districts is that doing so would dilute the minority vote, which could make Republicans vulnerable to a legal challenge under the Voting Rights Act.
Yarmuth’s announcement was met with well wishes from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Yarmuth’s constituents and all Americans had in him “a fierce and extraordinarily effective champion for their health, financial security and well-being.”
“When Chairman Yarmuth retires at the end of his term, the Congress will lose a greatly respected Member and our Caucus will lose a friend whose wise counsel, expertise, humor and warmth is cherished,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We thank John’s wife Cathy for sharing him with the Congress and the Country, and we wish both of them the best as they begin the next chapter of their journey.”
Yarmuth’s fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), applauded the congressman’s 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 in a statement. “I wish John the best as he takes a step back to spend more time with his family.”
Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.