Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) will not seek re-election after serving seven terms as a member of Congress.
He made the announcement Wednesday morning in a statement saying, “It was not an easy decision but I believe it was the right one for my family and me. I have spent my entire career and devoted my life to service. I see this not just as a job, but as a calling - a calling I will not walk away from.”
Rep. Reichert is currently serving Washington’s 8th Congressional District, which includes eastern portions of King and Pierce Counties. He previously served as King County sheriff, known for big cases such as the Green River Killer.
Congressman Reichert, in an interview with KING 5 on Wednesday, said the decision was finalized over August recess after talking to family, friends and his district office.
"Really, for me, it was all about finding quality time with my family; spending time with my kids, grandkids, brothers and sisters," said Reichert who just turned 67.
When asked if the current political climate factored into his decision, he acknowledged it was part of the equation.
"I wouldn't say it was a major part of the equation, but it was definitely a part of it," said Reichert.
Reichert would have faced a tough re-election battle in 2018, named as a top target by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His district has always elected Republicans to Congress but was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and former President Obama in 2012.
Several Democratic challengers already announced their campaigns, including Issaquah Councilmember Tola Marts, pediatrician Dr. Kim Schrier, former King County Deputy Prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, Amazon software developer Toby Whitney, a former legislative director for former Congressman Jim McDermott, and business owner Mona Das.
"This is now a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats – a seat that they need to win to capture the House of Representatives. So Reichert’s retirement is a boon for Democrats," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor.
Democrats need 24 seats to win back a majority in the House in 2018.
The independent Cook Political Report has categorized the Washington congressional race as a a "toss up," adding it's not a "sure pickup" for Democrats due to redistricting in 2012 that extended the district east across the Cascades.
Congressman Reichert even acknowledges it will be a fierce election season next year.
"Before this announcement, people were saying this is Dave Reichert’s district, it’s his to win again. After this announcement, the pundits have been saying this now leans to a Democrat, and I think that could be correct, considering the traveling that I’ve done in the district, in talking to people," said Reichert. "The feel, the gut feeling that I have is there is a lean to the left. Not a strong lean, but there is a lean there, and I think there’s an opportunity. It’s going to be a tough battle."
The Washington State Democratic Party consider the race a priority and plan to step up organizing activities ahead of campaign season.
"We’re launching three intensive volunteer organizing academies over the next two weeks to gear up for this fight," said State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski following Reichert's announcement. "It’s time we flip the 8th."
Republicans, meanwhile, hope the right candidate will help them hold onto the seat.
“Dave Reichert is a valued voice whose unique perspective serving as King County Sheriff before coming to Congress will be missed within our House Republican Conference,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers in a statement.
“Nonetheless, Washington’s Eighth District is a seat that has chosen Republicans for over a decade. With a bitter and expensive primary fight already confronting Democrats in this seat, Republicans are ready to elect another common-sense congressman like Dave Reichert, not another rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi.”
In recent months, Rep. Reichert faced increasing pressure from Democratic activists and the Indivisible Movement who criticized him for not holding public town hall meetings.
They also urged him to vote against the House GOP health care plan that passed in May.
Reichert was one of 20 Republican members who broke party lines and voted against the bill.
Among Republicans who are considering running for the open seat -- State Representative Drew Stokesberry of Auburn.
Washington Republican insiders also believe former statewide candidate Dino Rossi may be a likely candidate. Former 2016 gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant is also considering a run, according to a spokesman.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose mother held the seat for twelve years prior to Reichert, told KING 5 "he's not ruling anything out," but said he's currently focused on his reelection for council.
Below is Reichert’s full statement:
"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of the greatest state in the world’s greatest nation for nearly five decades. First as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves for six years, then in the King County Sheriff’s Office for 33 years, and most recently as a seven term Member of Congress. I am humbled to have been trusted by the people of Washington’s 8th District to be their voice in Congress; it is an honor I have not taken lightly. Each and every day, I have committed to serving the 8th District and our nation with the heart of a servant.
"After spending time during the August work period with family and friends, reflecting on the past, discussing the future, and celebrating another birthday, I have decided this will be my last term and I will not run for reelection in November, 2018. It was not an easy decision but I believe it was the right one for my family and me. I have spent my entire career and devoted my life to service. I see this not just as a job, but as a calling - a calling I will not walk away from.
"Washington’s 8th Congressional District is home to the most talented people, a first-class business community, and a breathtaking natural landscape that is second to none. In my congressional career, I have always strived to improve the daily lives of my constituents and preserve the majestic beauty of our region. Whether it was through my work to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, improve our foster care system and combat sex trafficking, or secure equipment and resources for our first responders, I have taken this honor and responsibility seriously.
"Early on, the importance of trade to the region was clear. From serving on President Obama’s Export Council to battling to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank to leading the fight to pass the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, I have always fought to give our exporters the chance to sell their goods and services around the world. Now, at this critical time, serving as the first Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade from Washington State, I remain steadfast in my commitment to Washington’s workers, manufacturers and growers – the best in the world.
"Representing over 700,000 constituents takes a team. My team, many of which have been with me since the beginning, have served our community with the heart of a servant, putting constituents before themselves. Day in and out they have helped constituents receive government funds owed to them, get answers when their questions were bogged down in government bureaucracy, and acquire necessary equipment and services for our veterans. I am immensely proud of the work my staff has done.
"This decision has been difficult to say the least but the love for my family ultimately guided me. I look forward to spending time with my wife, Julie, our three grown children and six grandchildren. They have made great sacrifices and I owe them not only my gratitude but more time together.
"As I finish my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives, I will continue to fight for hard working families, small business and all that makes our community great. I am deeply humbled by the support the people have shown since being elected in 1996 to Sheriff. Every election has been an amazing honor. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this opportunity. God has blessed my family, my team and me as we have served.
"Thank you and God Bless America."