By Associated Press - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said Tuesday that he will concentrate on running for president and will not seek re-election to Congress, ending a 24-year career as one of the more colorful members of the House of Representatives.

The 75-year-old Republican said he will serve out his term through December 2012, whether his presidential campaign is successful or not. He told the Associated Press that he has been criticized in the past for running for Congress while seeking the presidency.

Mr. Paul said the growing support for his 2012 presidential bid convinced him that he should not divide his energies. He won a straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans last month.

“I think that you have more credibility if you run for only one office at a time,” Mr. Paul said. He acknowledged that he may miss some House votes because of the presidential campaign, but that his staff would continue to provide constituent services.

As for the issues he feels passionately about, including U.S. foreign and economic policy, he said he will continue to fight for those either as president or from outside government.

“I believe I can continue to do what I have been doing outside of Congress,” said Mr. Paul, whose son Rand now represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate. “I was ready for a change.”

The leader of the Republican Caucus in the Texas Legislature, state Rep. Larry Taylor, said Mr. Paul’s retirement offers a “rare opportunity” for someone new to take the seat.

“I have received encouragement from conservative leaders across Texas this afternoon,” Mr. Taylor said. “It is an opportunity that I will consider very seriously in the coming weeks.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, congratulated Mr. Paul on his career in Congress.

“Ron has served Texans in Congress with distinction for nearly 24 years as a fierce advocate for a more limited government,” Mr. Cornyn said. “His steadfast devotion to his core beliefs has earned him the respect and loyalty from Texans and Americans of all walks of life.”

The former obstetrician has served 12 terms in Congress from the state’s 14th District, which covers the Gulf Coast south of Houston. He was first elected in 1976 in a special election, but later lost the general election. He won again in 1978, but stepped down in 1984. In 1988 he ran for president as a Libertarian.

Mr. Paul launched another congressional campaign in 1996, defeated a Republican incumbent and has remained in office since then.

His mix of libertarian and Republican politics has prompted many to call him the “intellectual godfather” of the tea party movement. He opposes U.S. military involvement overseas, wants to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and believes the U.S. should return to the gold standard.

He has introduced legislation to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve, which he said is designed to “deceive and defraud the American people.”

Personal responsibility and more power to the states are Mr. Paul’s hallmarks. He opposes federal flood insurance, farm subsidies and the Department of Education, earning him the nickname “Dr. No.”

He is the author of six books on politics and monetary policy.

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