House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) announced that he will retire at the end of his term.
“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,” said Frelinghuysen in a statement Monday confirming his move.
“Public service is an incredible way to turn your convictions into something that serves the greater good and to do it alongside people from every walk of life and background. That has certainly been my experience here in this House, and during my Army service in Vietnam. I thank my friends and colleagues with whom I have served,” he added.
Frelinghuysen is the latest high-profile Republican to announce his retirement, joining seven other GOP lawmakers who currently serve in leadership roles on House committees who announced that they would not seek re-election.
Unlike the other GOP chairmen who announced their retirement, Frelinghuysen was not term-limited in his committee chair position.
In total, more than 30 House Republicans are retiring, resigning, or stepping down to run for a non-congressional office while 14 House Democrats are deciding not to seek re-election, Fox News reported.
The 11th congressional district has historically been a “safe” seat for Republicans. Frelinghuysen won his district by 19 points in the 2016 general election.
But Democrats have been targeting Frelinghuysen’s seat in recent months after Donald Trump narrowly won the district in 2016.
Democratic Party officials say they are confident they would be able to pick up the seat in Congress and are favoring former federal prosecutor and Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Sherrill has a war chest of more than $1.2 million as of December 31 and has been backed by the pro-choice group EMILY’s List.
“Representative Frelinghuysen’s retirement opens up a very competitive seat that is moving quickly towards Democrats,” Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “With veteran and former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill’s strong candidacy, and the abysmal approval ratings of Speaker Ryan’s Republican Congress, Democrats are confident that this seat will turn blue next November.”
Despite the increase in fundraising from Democrats, Republican officials say they are confident they will be able to keep the district red.
“This district has been held by a Republican since the 1980’s, and we plan to keep it that way in November,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) said in a statement.
But other Republicans cautioned that the party has some work to do to keep the seat in play.
Rick Van Glahn, the Republican candidate who ran against Frelinghuysen in 2014 and 2016 as the outsider candidate, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that he thinks the 11th district will lean Democrat in the next election.
“The 11th District is trending left. Voters are becoming more liberal and Democratic,” Van Glahn said, adding that the recent election of Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, will be a “force” for future elections.
The former congressional candidate also noted that he was “disappointed” and surprised his former challenger was willing to give up his seat.
“I’m a little bit disappointed Frelinghuysen is resigning,” he said, adding that he believes the New Jersey Republican was “not up to the challenge” and chose to retire because of party infighting in Congress and not because of President Trump.
Van Glahn, a small businessman, expressed skepticism that an outsider could win Frelinghuysen’s seat after running against him twice.
Van Glahn told Breitbart News that while he does not plan to run for Frelinghuysen’s seat, he does think Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany)—who serves as the appropriations officer for the New Jersey Assembly—has a good shot at winning the seat should he run.
Other Republicans who have been floated as potential candidates to replace Frelinghuysen include tax lawyer Rosemary Becchi, New Jersey State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville)—who serves as the Republican whip in the New Jersey Senate, and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph).
Frelinghuysen comes from a long line of politicians in his family, who has represented New Jersey in Congress for many generations. The New Jersey Republican is the sixth in his family to serve in Congress.
NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, this author interned for Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) in 2011 while in college, long before embarking on a career in journalism.