Washington (CNN) - Tennessee Democratic Rep. John Tanner, a leading centrist voice in the House, will retire at the close of the 111th Congress.
Tanner is a founding member of the so-called "Blue Dogs," a group of House Democrats who promote centrist policies.
See full statement after the jump
Statement released by Tanner's office:
"Other than wearing the military uniform of my country, I can think of no higher privilege than serving in public office with the consent of free men and women. Betty Ann and I have been honored and humbled by the support granted us through the years. The many kindnesses and friendships extended to us are something we cherish and for which we will be forever grateful.
"When we were first elected to Congress some 21 years ago, I agreed, as I do now, with our predecessor, Ed Jones, that 20 years was an appropriate amount of time to serve, with the voters' consent.
"Betty Ann and I had considered retiring in 2007 at the end of the 110th Congress, were it not for the fact that our nation had the chance to elect an American as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly at this critical moment in the war in Afghanistan. However, we believed we owed it to our country to stay and fulfill this term of office as NATO PA President. This mandate expires in November 2010, and therefore, we have made the decision not to seek re-election to Congress.
"No one could have asked for a more dedicated staff to help countless thousands of our constituents. Long hours, nights and weekends are not uncommon in our offices. We look forward to continuing this service to the 8th District next year through the end of the 111th Congress.
"Our nation faces many severe and unrelenting problems. I will stay active on these matters and continue my efforts with the Blue Dogs and others of good will to help our citizens come together for the future of our children and grandchildren.
"No road in public life is travelled alone. Betty Ann and our children have sacrificed much over these years, and for them and for me, we say a simple and heartfelt 'thank you.' It has truly been our friends and supporters who have made this journey possible."
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