WASHINGTON (WHSV) — After 25 years in the House of Representatives, Congressman Bob Goodlatte has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018.
Goodlatte was elected to represent Virginia's 6th District as the Republican candidate in 1992 and has served in the role ever since, winning 13 elections, fending off six challengers in that time. Other years, he remained un-challenged.
The 6th District covers most of the Shenandoah Valley, including Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren counties, as well parts of Bedford and Roanoke County.
In the past year, Goodlatte has been in the national spotlight as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, responsible for launching a probe into former President Obama's Justice Department just last month.
However, his tenure as chairman of the judiciary panel ends in December 2018 due to term limits. He describes the marker as the "natural stepping-off point" and a chance to begin a new chapter.
He's been staunchly conservative on most fiscal and social issues, but did find common ground with Democrats on technology and national security. Most recently, Goodlatte joined with committee Democrats to sponsor a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to get a court order before viewing intelligence collected by the National Security Agency.
A fiscal hawk, Goodlatte backed a 2012 amendment that would have cut defense spending by more than $7 billion.
He sparred frequently with the Obama administration and Democrats on immigration. Four years ago, after the Senate passed a comprehensive bill to overhaul U.S. immigration laws, Goodlatte rejected the idea of giving millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally a special path to citizenship.
Goodlatte said the House should chart its own course on immigration even if that failed to produce a plan acceptable to President Barack Obama. He said he would do everything possible to ensure the House never acted on the Senate's bill. That legislation never did have a House vote.
The House in September passed legislation he sponsored to make membership in a criminal gang grounds for deportation. Republicans have warned of the dangers of the violent street gang MS-13.
He has also represented interests of the Shenandoah Valley for years by chairing the Agriculture Committee.
Early in 2017, following Goodlatte's 2016 defeat of Democratic challenger Kai Degner, constituents across the district frequently criticized him for refusals to accept invitations to town hall events, like his declining an invitation by Roanoke Indivisible.
"Where's Bob?" became a rallying cry for many who attended demonstrations throughout the Valley.
Goodlatte defended his contact with constituents to WHSV.
"I've always made it my priority to communicate with the people I represent," said Goodlatte. "I meet regularly with groups or individuals who have requested appointments, attend community events, and correspond with constituents who have contacted my office via phone, email, postal mail, and social media."
You can find video of several of his recent visits in the Valley, as well as a 1on1 interview with WHSV's Bob Corso, above.
This announcement comes just two days after Democrats swept Virginia's statewide elections and gained more seats in the House of Delegates than they had gained at any point during Goodlatte's time in office.
Goodlatte said that every two years, he and his wife, Maryellen, sit down to discuss whether he should run again.
The 65-year-old Goodlatte is among several other longtime House committee chairmen who have announced plans to retire at the end of their term, including Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who heads the financial services panel, and Lamar Smith of Texas, the science committee chairman.
Bob Goodlatte has released an official statement explaining his decision, which you can read in full below. It's unclear exactly what he plans to do after retirement from Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
When I first decided to run for Congress there were several things I wanted to achieve for the Commonwealth of Virginia and our nation. I had a strong passion for public service, a love of the law and the judicial system, and a deep appreciation for the people who call western and central Virginia home. These passions led me to serve on the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees throughout my time in the House, and have shaped my work on policies impacting the American people. I’ve had the privilege to serve as Chairman of both of these committees, and I’ve been proud to work on policies that have become law and advance fiscal conservatism, personal liberty, economic growth, and limited government.
For the past 25 years, it has been my honor to represent the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. I cannot begin to express how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to serve and take part in the great experiment of self-government envisioned by our Founders. It has been a labor of love to work countless hours and travel endless miles on the roads of our District for a quarter of a century.
Every two years, Maryellen and I sat down to discuss whether to run again or not. When we discussed the 2018 election, the conversation ended a little differently than in past years. After much contemplation and prayer, we decided it was the right time for me to step aside and let someone else serve the Sixth District. I will not seek re-election. With my time as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee ending in December 2018, this is a natural stepping-off point and an opportunity to begin a new chapter of my career and spend more time with my family, particularly my granddaughters.
While I’m not running for re-election, my work in the 115th Congress is far from done. There is much that I hope we can accomplish in the next year, including: bolstering enforcement of our immigration laws and reforming the legal immigration system, simplifying the tax code in order to stimulate job growth and benefit families in the Sixth District, enacting criminal justice reform, repealing Obamacare, advancing protections of the freedoms and liberties enshrined in our Constitution, and, of course, continuing first-class constituent service for the citizens of the Sixth District. I look forward to working with the House Leadership, the Senate, and President Trump in bringing real conservative change to our country.
I extend my deepest thanks to the people of Virginia’s Sixth District who have placed their trust in me. It is truly you who are the highlight of my time in elected office. I’ve had the good fortune of having an amazing staff team during my time in Congress – both in my Sixth District offices as well as in the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees. They’ve done excellent work, and I greatly value their commitment to serving the Sixth District and the American people. I’d also like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work over the years. I genuinely appreciate your friendship and support. And finally, none of this would have been possible without the love and support of my wife, Maryellen, and our children, Bobby, Jen, and Jen’s husband, Matt. They have my enduring love and gratitude.
I look forward to what the next chapter brings.