WASHINGTON (AP) — Tennessee GOP Rep. Stephen Fincher announced Monday that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term.
Fincher is a member of the 2010 GOP class that stormed Washington, taking back control of Congress just two years after President Barack Obama was elected.
He was best known for leading the charge to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank despite opposition from top GOP leaders and its tea party wing. In helping the Export-Import Bank renew its charter, Fincher took on GOP leaders such as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, though then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered quiet encouragement.
Fincher, 43, is a gospel singer from Frog Jump and grew up on his family's farm, where cotton and soybeans are grown. He is regarded as a stout conservative.
"I never intended to become a career politician. The last six years have been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am honored to have been given the chance to serve," Fincher said in a statement. "I will be returning to Frog Jump and my family and business."
Fincher's announcement came as a surprise to political observers in Tennessee, and set off a mad scramble among potential candidates to succeed him. Former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, state Sen. Brian Kelsey and radiologist George Flinn announced they would run for the Republican nomination, while several others like Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said they are considering getting in the race.
Fincher's western Tennessee district is heavily Republican and is considered a safe seat for his party in November's elections. Obama lost the district's vote in both his 2008 and 2012 races by 2-1 margins.
Fincher took over the seat after longtime Democratic Rep. John Tanner retired.