OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state said Wednesday that he was retiring from Congress after seven terms, giving Democrats renewed hope of winning a district solely held by Republicans since its creation more than three decades ago.
Reichert, 67, a former sheriff known for his work that led to the capture of a serial killer convicted of killing 49 women, has represented a suburban district east of Seattle since 2005. It's one of four Republican-held House seats in a state where Democrats make up the majority of the congressional delegation.
Reichert said in a written statement that his decision not to seek re-election was difficult, but added, "I believe it was the right one for my family and me. I have spent my entire career and devoted my life to service. I see this not just as a job, but as a calling — a calling I will not walk away from."
Democrats had targeted Reichert, with a host of would-be challengers lining up to seek the party's support in the 2018 race. They cited voter concerns about health care and immigration and record disapproval ratings for President Donald Trump.
Chris Vance, a political consultant and former U.S. Senate candidate who lives in the 8th Congressional District, said it is considered a swing district that leans Republican.
"It is by far the most vulnerable of the four Republican districts" in Washington state, Vance said. "And it's going to be Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump."
It tipped for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election and favored Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray over Vance, her Republican challenger.
Reichert easily won a seventh term last year, beating former sportscaster Tony Ventrella.
He is the third Republican elected to the district since its creation after the 1980 census. After new district lines were approved in 2012, it crossed the Cascade Mountain range and added areas in more conservative central Washington.
Clinton received strong support in heavily populated King County, while Trump won support in district's portion of four other counties: Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas and Pierce.
"Clearly, Congressman Reichert saw the writing on the wall, and realized that he was in for an uphill re-election campaign against a strong bench of Democratic challengers with a motivated base, while defending congressional Republicans' failed legislative agenda, particularly on health-care repeal," said Drew Godinich, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he was confident that the seat would remain in GOP hands, especially with "a bitter and expensive primary fight already confronting Democrats" in the district.
Of his time in office, Reichert said he was especially proud of his work to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, improve the foster care system, combat sex trafficking and secure equipment and resources for first responders.
House Speaker Paul Ryan referred to Reichert by his Capitol nickname of "Sheriff," and in a written statement said he was "an invaluable public servant and has inspired us all, myself especially."
Reichert served two terms as sheriff of Washington state's King County before being elected to Congress. He was the first detective assigned to the Green River killings, named for the river where the first bodies were found in 1982, and was sheriff when Gary Ridgway was arrested.
Ridgway was convicted in 2003 of killing 49 women, but he said he likely committed more than 71 murders. He is serving a sentence of life without parole.
Daly reported from Washington.