- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Influential Republican Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York said yesterday he will not run for re-election in November, becoming the latest in a long list of Republican House retirements that have dimmed the party’s prospects of retaking the chamber this year.

Mr. Reynolds, 57, who once was considered a potential House speaker, said he is confident he could win re-election but that it was time to “focus on my family and our future” after five terms in Congress.

“When I look ahead, I’m reminded of my good friend, [former New York Gov.] George Pataki, who observed that while there is always more to do, elected officials ‘are only temporary stewards of the people’s trust,’ ” Mr. Reynolds said.

Mr. Reynolds is the 29th House Republican to announce they won’t seek re-election this year, with just six Democrats stepping down.

Rep. Adam H. Putnam of Florida, chairman of the House Republican Conference, called Mr. Reynolds “perhaps the last of a dying breed, an old-fashioned statesman who revels in the rough and tumble of politics.”

Mr. Reynolds chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the fundraising and recruiting arm of House Republicans, during the 2004 elections, guiding his party to impressive wins. He again headed the committee two years later, when Republicans lost control of the chamber to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

The lawmaker, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, has been a longtime advocate for lower taxes.

In 2005, he led a successful fight to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which the military had scheduled to close as a cost-cutting measure.

Mr. Reynolds’ 2006 re-election campaign was dominated by his role in the Mark Foley congressional page scandal. His Democratic challenger, Jack Davis, accused Mr. Reynolds of failing to respond when he learned that Mr. Foley, a former Republican House member from Florida, had improper contact with pages. Mr. Reynolds said he did everything possible to force Mr. Foley to resign as soon as he became aware of the problem.

Mr. Reynolds said that by announcing his decision to retire almost eight months before the election there is plenty of time for the party to recruit a replacement.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Mr. Reynolds’ district as a Republican-leaning district, and President Bush carried the region by a margin of 55 percent to 43 percent over Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry of Massachusettes in the 2004 election.

“The registration advantage along with the past presidential performance of the district illustrates just how strong a Republican seat this is,” said Ken Spain, a NRCC spokesman. “We are confident that we will retain the seat.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said Mr. Reynolds’ retirement is indicative of major internal problems that will significantly hurt Republicans during this year’s House races.

“Democrats remain on the offense and we are well-positioned to pick up Reynolds’ seat,” Doug Thornell, a DCCC spokesman said.

In addition to the retirements, the NRCC has encountered serious fundraising problems in the past year, and has only one-fifth the available cash on hand as does the DCCC.

The NRCC also is embroiled in a money scandal in which its former treasurer, Christopher Ward, made hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unauthorized and unreported withdrawals from its bank account, funneling the money to other political committees and possibly to a personal account.

Republican leaders concede it’s highly unlikely they will recapture the chamber in November. But they say they are optimistic they can whittle down the Democratic majority by winning back some seats lost in 2006.

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