MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Republican Jon Runyan, a member of the U.S. House's 2010 tea party class who displayed a moderate streak, has decided to retire rather than seek re-election to a third term next year.
"Politics shouldn't be a career and I never intended to make it one," Runyan said in a statement Wednesday, reflecting something he often said during his first campaign three years ago. "While it has truly been an honor to serve the people of New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District, at this stage in my life, and more importantly, the lives of my three children, spending time with them is my top priority."
A spokesman said Runyan would not give interviews Wednesday.
The former offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles defeated an incumbent Democrat to win his seat in 2010, one of dozens of newcomers who lifted the GOP into the majority in the House.
Runyan, who has represented a central New Jersey district stretching across the state, was one of 87 Republicans to vote to reopen the government last month after the 16-day shutdown. He also is a co-sponsor of a House bill that would outlaw discrimination against gays in the workplace.
"Jon came to Congress to help get our country back on track, and since Day One, he has been an important part of our efforts to reform the federal government and get reckless spending under control," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee. "While Jon will be missed, I wish him and his family all the best as they start the next chapter of their lives."
Runyan, who turns 40 at the end of the month, won his district with 54 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. Runyan's decision gives Democrats a chance to win back the seat in a district that President Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012.
"Congressman Runyan is the 14th House Republican to bail from Speaker (John) Boehner's sinking ship, and his retirement makes this swing district even more competitive," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, praised Runyan.
"As a Member of the Armed Services Committee, Jon has been the tireless advocate and teammate for the men and women of Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst and our military. He protected the troops and veterans with the tenacity you'd expect from an offensive lineman — both while they were in harm's way and when they returned home as veterans," he said in a statement.
Runyan's district is one that has been controlled by Republicans for more than a century except when Democratic John Adler won it as an open seat against a divided Republican Party in 2008 as President Barack Obama swept into office. Runyon defeated Adler amid the tea party's breakthrough two years later.
But a Democrat has already gotten into the race for the seat. Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard announced her candidacy on Wednesday in front of the Mount Laurel home that once belonged to Alice Paul, a suffragist and women's rights leader.
Cassata reported from Washington.