Washington (CNN) – Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee announced Monday that he will not run for re-election next year, the fourth House Democrat in the past four weeks to retire rather than than defend their seat in next year's midterm elections.
The 13-term Democrat has held the seat in Tennessee's 6th congressional district since 1985, winning nearly three-quarters of the vote in his re-election bid last year.
But the district, located in the north-central portion of the state, went for John McCain in last year's presidential election by 25 points. George W. Bush won the district by 20 points in 2004.
"I feel honored that the people of Middle Tennessee have allowed me to serve them for the past 25 years," Gordon, who chairs the House Science and Technology Committee, said in a statement released Monday. "Every decision I have made in Congress has been with their best interests in mind. I hope the people here at home feel that I have served them as well as their good advice and views have served me.
"When I was elected, I was the youngest member of the Tennessee congressional delegation; now, I'm one of the oldest. In fact, I have members of my staff who weren't even born when I took office. That tells me it's time for a new chapter," added Gordon.
Gordon says his family played a part in his decision: "Turning 60 has led me to re-evaluate what's next. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a wonderful wife who has a very demanding job. I am the only child of my 83-year-old mother, Margaret. They have made sacrifices to allow me to do what I love by serving in Congress, and now it's my turn," said Gordon.
One Democratic leadership aide tells CNN Gordon's announcement, first reported by the Washington Post, "was not a surprise, and we already have political people on the ground in the process of recruitment."
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen also sounded an optimistic note. “We are confident that a Democrat who shares Chairman Gordon’s commitment to putting progress before partisanship on behalf of Middle Tennessee will succeed him as the next Representative of Tennessee’s 6th District," he said in a statement.
Gordon's move follows retirement announcements by fellow Democrats Brian Baird of Washington State, John Tanner of Tennessee and Dennis Moore of Kansas. Rep. Robert Wexler, who represents Florida's heavily-Democratic 19th congressional district, has also announced he's retiring next year. Six other House Democrats are running for higher office in 2010. No House Republicans have announced retirement, but as of now 12 are running for statewide offices next year rather than for re-election.
"It's official: Democrats now have a retirement problem. After being forced to toe the line for Nancy Pelosi's reckless agenda too many times, Blue Dog Democrats would rather roll over and retire than face the political headwind that is barreling toward them,: says National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Ken Spain. "This is evidence of the fact that the Obama-Pelosi agenda of government takeovers, permanent bailouts, and fewer jobs is taking a political and mental toll even on incumbent Democrats who were once-perceived to be firmly entrenched."
A Democratic leadership aide downplayed the development. "We've always said that there would be retirements. It happens every cycle."
Though the political landscape looks good for House Republicans next year, Democrats have not seen the same wave of retirements that occured before Republicans famously took back the House in 1994, when 28 Democrats chose not to seek re-election.
Democrats currently control the chamber by a margin of 258-177.
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