Nick Corasaniti
2018-01-29
NY Times

United States Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican and the chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election in November, putting another congressional seat in play and dealing a blow to New Jersey’s clout in Washington.

His retirement is the latest in a growing list of Republican House members, including several who lead important committees, who are choosing not to run again.

“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” Mr. Frelinghuysen said in a statement.

His retirement opens another opportunity for Democrats. Though the seat has been held by Mr. Frelinghuysen for over 23 years, demographic changes and a shift in the political winds in New Jersey hint that a Democrat could prevail.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the district by only 1 percentage point to President Trump. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the district by 5 percentage points. The Cook Political Report, which rates congressional races, had already labeled Mr. Frelinghuysen’s re-election a “toss up.”

The 11th congressional district in New Jersey, which Mr. Frelinghuysen represents, stretches across several counties in the northern part of the state, and includes many affluent suburbs. It has been a reliably Republican district since 1985.

Mr. Frelinghuysen, who has held the seat since 1995, was facing a challenge from Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, who has the backing of four key Democratic county chairs in New Jersey. And a new super PAC, NJ 11th For Change, was established to help organize a grass-roots effort to unseat Mr. Frelinghuysen.

But in his role overseeing the appropriations committee, Mr. Frelinghuysen has been instrumental in steering federal funds to his home state.

Mr. Frelinghuysen has often been caught between the direction of the party and the desires of his home state. He voted against the federal tax law, citing the harm it would inflict on many of his constituents by limiting the deductibility of state income taxes and property taxes. His vote reportedly angered Republican leadership, and Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, threatened to strip Mr. Frelinghuysen of his leadership role.

He also initially opposed Republican-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, before changing his vote at the last minute.

At a time of deep polarization, Mr. Frelinghuysen sought to strike a more moderate tone, saying in his statement that he has striven to reach across the political aisle.

“I have worked in a bipartisan manner,’’ he said, “not just in times of crisis but always, because I believe it best serves my constituents, my state and our country.”

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