Rep. Norm Dicks, the senior Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said Friday he won't seek re-election this year, citing a desire "to change gears and enjoy life at a different pace."
Unlike a number of other House members who recently have announced retirement in recent weeks, Mr. Dicks, who has served northwest Washington state since 1977, wasn't expected to face a tough re-election battle due to redistricting.
And while Democrats now must scramble to find a replacement candidate, the party is expected to retain control of the seat. Mr. Dicks, 71, easily won re-election for an 18th time in 2010 with 58 percent of the vote.
"Congressman Norm Dicks has served the people of Washington with distinction, commitment, vision, and passion over the course of his career," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Friday. "It has been an honor to serve with him."
The former linebacker on the University of Washington football team didn't say how he intends to spend his retirement.
"I am proud that many of these friendships have crossed the ideological and party lines that tend to separate us," he said. "I have always believed that we can achieve greater results if we leave politics aside when the election season and the floor debates are over."
Mr. Dicks was known for pushing for pet spending projects for his district, which includes the Olympic Peninsula. Republicans, who took control of the chamber in early 2011, have barred the practice.
The Democrat — like most members of the Washington state congressional delegation — pushed for defense contracts for the Boeing Co., one of the state's largest employers. In a prepared statement, he listed his backing of the airline manufacturer among his most proud accomplishments.
Other accomplishments he touted included efforts to protect Puget Sound, downtown restoration projects for the cities of Tacoma and Bremerton and "maintaining a strong national defense."
President Obama praised Mr. Dicks for "championing the men and women of our Armed Forces and fighting for the many natural resources of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest."
Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is next in line for the Democrats' top spot on the Appropriations Committee, which sets specific expenditures of federal money. Other Democrats with significant seniority on the panel include Reps. Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, Nita M. Lowey and Jose E. Serrano of New York, and Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut. Democratic leaders will decide who succeeds Mr. Dicks after the November elections.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican, on Friday praised his counterpart for his willingness and ability to work across party lines.
"Norm Dicks and I have been friends and colleagues for many years, and I have rarely had the chance to work with someone of his decency, strong work ethic, jovial character and honesty," said Mr. Rogers in a statement. "Despite our ideological differences, Norm has never hesitated to work together to maintain the comity and spirit of bipartisanship that is the hallmark of the Appropriations Committee."
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