Washington (CNN) – Veteran California House Republican Jerry Lewis announced Thursday he will not run for re-election, making him the third GOP House member from the Golden state to announce within a week their plans to retire.
"After months of consultation with loved ones and family, my wife Arlene and I have decided to retire from public life. We are deeply grateful to so many who have provided their support over the years. I have worked hard to justify that support," Lewis said in a written statement.
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Lewis, who is serving his 17th term in the House, rose to prominence as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and chaired the panel in 2005. When Democrats regained control of the House, he remained the top Republican on the committee. But Lewis' ability to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to businesses and local governments in his district attracted attention from federal investigators. No charges were ever filed, but law enforcement authorities did look into his ties to lobbyists, including former California Rep Bill Lowery, who represented various clients who received millions for federally funded projects.
After the GOP took over the majority in 2010, it banned earmarks. Because of internal party rules limiting tenure on top committee spots, Lewis would have needed a waiver to chair the spending panel again. Lewis remained on the committee as a senior member, but opted against a bid to lead it, perhaps recognizing the tea party fueled anti-spending freshman class elected that year might be skeptical of his reputation for doling out federal money.
In addition to Lewis, California Republicans Elton Gallegly and Wally Herger also said they won't run next November. So far a total of five House Republicans and nine House Democrats are not running for re-election in 2012.
One Democratic aide said that when House Democratic retirements began to mount at the end of last year, Republicans seized on the news as a sign Democrats would have trouble in efforts to regain control of the chamber. "Now that their numbers are quickly ticking up, that argument is starting to fade," the aide told CNN.
But a GOP aide maintained the recent spate of retirements in California has to do with the fact that the state's Republican delegation includes a number of long serving members who were elected to the House in the late 1970s and 1980s.
After California redrew its map of congressional districts Lewis' district was split and he was deciding between two newly formed House districts. Democrats point out that on the same day Lewis said he was retiring, Peter Aguilar, the Democratic Mayor of Redlands, California, jumped into the race in one of those districts.
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the House Republican campaign committee argued redistricting will hurt several Democratic incumbents in the state, noting that the Democratic campaign committee has already pledged national financial resources for these races.
"As November approaches, Democrats are watching long-held California seats slip away from them like sands through an hourglass. They recently added two additional members from the state to their most vulnerable list and are desperately and unsuccessfully trying to distance themselves from the disastrous policies coming out of the White House," Scarpinato said.
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