Goodlatte won’t seek re-election in 2018

Bob Goodlatte

U.S. Rep. Robert W. “Bob” Goodlatte plans to step down next year, the longtime congressman announced Thursday.

Goodlatte, a Republican based in Roanoke representing Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, said in a statement he does not intend to seek re-election next year. Goodlatte has represented the district for 25 years since his first term began in 1993. The 65-year-old congressman chairs the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives.

Goodlatte spoke to media outlets about his decision during a news conference by telephone Thursday afternoon. He said he and his wife Maryellen discussed whether or not he should run in 2018 and decided this time he would step aside so he could spend more time with his family.

“I’ve always viewed my service in Congress as something that was not going to go on forever and that I wanted to do something else with my life,” Goodlatte said. “I don’t know what that is yet. I’m gonna spend the next year considering the various options but I am looking forward to having that opportunity and the fact that my service as chairman of the Judiciary Committee will end at the end of this Congress is a good jumping-off point for me to do that.”

The political climate in Washington did not play a role in making the decision to step aside after 25 years, Goodlatte told reporters. Rather, he said, he made the choice after he and his wife decided they wanted to spend more time together and with their family. Goodlatte reiterated that he also wanted to pursue other activities.

The congressman did not rule out a bid for U.S. Senate but said he has not made any decisions.

“I’m taking a careful look at all the different options I have and I’m not saying no to anything, but I’m also not saying yes to anything at this point,” he said.

Goodlatte said he expects to see a “vigorous” contest to secure the Republican Party  nomination to succeed him in the spring, and he anticipates helping the candidate in that election bid. Goodlatte expressed confidence that the district would remain in the hands of conservatives.

Who appears on the ballot in next year’s election remains undecided. Goodlatte would not comment on who he thinks or has heard intends to run for his seat.

Shenandoah County resident Karen U. Kwiatkowski challenged Goodlatte in the Republican Party primary five years ago. In an email seeking a reaction on Goodlatte’s announcement, Kwiatkowski commented on her earlier bid for the congressman’s seat.

“When I challenged Bob in the 2012 primary, it was to push him towards less government, and more prosperity for the country and our district,” Kwiatkowski stated. “I’m very happy for Bob and Maryellen, and when I saw them both in September they appeared very happy and relaxed. It’s a good decision for them, and their family.”

Kwiatkowski lost a bid Tuesday for the District 1 seat on the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors to incumbent John R. “Dick” Neese. She said she will not seek the Republican Party nomination to run for the 6th Congressional District next year. Rather, she voiced support for Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the National Republican Committee who announced on Thursday her plans to run for the seat. Kwiatkowski also stated that state Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, announced his intentions to run for the district.

“Cynthia Dunbar has stepped up and is a solid, constitutional conservative who will work for real reform in Congress,” Kwiatkowski stated. “I understand my friend Delegate Cline has also announced for the seat, but I think Virginia needs him in the House of Delegates this term. Cynthia is a tough, smart conservative with an incredible track record, and I’m looking forward to an exciting political year in the 6th District.”

Andrew B. “Andy” Schmookler challenged Goodlatte for the district as the Democratic Party candidate in the 2012 election. Schmookler said Thursday by phone that he does not plan to run for the seat again next year.

Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, lauded Goodlatte’s work in a statement about the congressman’s announcement.

“Bob Goodlatte has been a true public servant to the citizens of the 6th District,” Obenshain stated. “He has been a stalwart leader standing strong for our conservative principles and values here in the Shenandoah Valley and Western Virginia.

“As a legislator representing Virginia’s number one agricultural district, I am especially grateful for all he did for farmers and the agricultural economy,” Obenshain goes on to state. “His efforts and assistance were instrumental in helping hundreds of poultry farmers save their family farms when they came together to form the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative.”

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, also thanked Goodlatte for his service.

“I look forward to working with his successor,” Gilbert stated in an email. “Virginia’s legislature is at a crossroads right now, and I am 100 percent focused on serving my constituents and fulfilling my obligations as Majority Leader in the House of Delegates in 2018 and beyond.”

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck also commended Goodlatte for his service.

“Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been a strong voice for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the people of the 6th District,” Whitbeck stated in a news release. “Throughout his service, Bob has been a nationwide leader on issues such as agriculture, immigration, and for a balanced budget initiative similar to legislation the Commonwealth has on its books.”

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Virginia, thanked Goodlatte for his service in a statement.

“I have appreciated the opportunity to work with Congressman Goodlatte on a variety of issues important to our constituents in the Roanoke Valley,” Warner stated. “I thank him for a lifetime of public service, and extend him and Maryellen my very best wishes for the future.”

Goodlatte commented in a statement with his announcement about his reason for stepping down.

“When I first decided to run for Congress there were several things I wanted to achieve for the Commonwealth of Virginia and our nation,” Goodlatte stated. “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.

“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,” Goodlatte added.

Goodlatte added that he hopes to continue his work on repealing Obamacare, bolstering enforcement of immigration laws and reforming the legal immigration system, simplifying the tax code in order to stimulate job growth and benefit families in the 6th District, enacting criminal justice reform, and advancing freedoms and liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

The 6th Congressional District covers all or part of the counties of Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren as well as the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Staunton and Waynesboro.