U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, the only Democrat in Kansas' congressional delegation, said Monday he will not seek a seventh term, calling it "time for a new generation of leadership."
Moore _ who represents the 3rd District, a heavily Republican district in suburban Kansas City _ said in a statement from his Washington office that he would finish out his term, which ends in January 2011.
Moore said trying to represent "the moderate mainstream of the district" was the most exciting and frustrating job he's had.
"As the first Democrat elected to represent this district in 40 years back in 1998, I know that there didn't used to be a partisan competition in northeast Kansas," he said. "This progress is good for democracy and important in ensuring that all voices are heard."
Tyler Longpine, spokesman for the Kansas Democratic Party, said the news "didn't blind-side" the party, but he declined to elaborate. "It's not a complete surprise. He's had a long and distinguished career," Longpine said.
Moore, 64, was first elected to Congress in 1998 and is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. He was the Johnson County district attorney from 1976 to 1988.
Moore is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democrats who push for stricter fiscal responsibility in Congress. He voted in favor of the House health care reform bill that passed the chamber earlier this month.
Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty said Moore had developed the knack for routinely wooing moderate Republicans and independents.
"It's always tough for a political party to lose a proven election winner, especially in Kansas where Republicans have such a registration advantage," Beatty said.
He said Moore was considered safe in 2010, despite voting for the health care bill and the federal stimulus package.
"He could have been defeated, but a lot of things would have come together," Beatty said. "It would have been tough to knock him off with his votes."
Moore's decision not to seek re-election likely will open a rush by both parties to succeed him. It is the first time since 1996 that an incumbent won't be on the ballot in the district, which covers Johnson, Wyandotte and a portion of Douglas counties. Moore said he expected a "robust competition" to fill the vacancy.
Democrats hold a 257-178 majority in the House. The 2010 midterm elections will be watched as an indication of voter approval for President Barack Obama and his reform efforts.
Amanda Adkins, chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, said Moore's departure was a loss for Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because he frequently supported their policies rather than the desires of his constituents.
"I am confident that we will put forth a candidate who is focused on the needs of Kansans," Adkins said in a statement. "At this time of economic uncertainty, Republicans know the importance of a pro-growth, pro-business agenda to families in our great state."
As of Sunday, former state lawmaker Patricia Lightner and two little-known district residents, Daniel Gilyeat and John Rysavy, were the only Republicans actively campaigning. State Rep. Kevin Yoder, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday he was forming an advisory group to explore a run.
Moore won re-election in 2008, defeating former state Sen. Nick Jordan of Shawnee with 56 percent of the vote. His margin of victory grew steadily over the years as he turned back challengers, including former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in 2000. Jordan is considering running for the seat again.
On the Net:
Moore's office: http://www.moore.house.gov