LAKE JACKSON — After serving almost 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Ron Paul told The Facts exclusively this morning he will not be seeking another term for the District 14 seat.
Paul, 75, will instead focus on his quest for the presidency in 2012.
“I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election,” Paul said. “It’s about that time when I should change tactics.”
His announcement will give enough time for anyone with aspirations for his seat to think about running, he said. Paul didn’t want to wait for filing in the 2012 primary to let people know he wasn’t seeking reelection.
“I didn’t want to hold off until in December,” he said. “I thought it shouldn’t be any later than now.”
Paul has served 12 terms in Congress. District 14 encompasses a 10-county area along the Gulf Coast.
“The people in the area have supported me for many years,” he said.
Before turning to politics, Paul was an obstetrician based in Lake Jackson. The Pennsylvania native served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force before moving to the area to start his practice.
Paul first was elected to the U.S. House in 1976 and served four terms before stepping down in 1984. After Republicans took over Congress in 1994, Paul said he felt inspired to run again and sought the District 14 seat in 1996. He beat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Laughlin in the 1996 primary and won the general election against Democrat Charles “Lefty” Morris.
Paul has held the seat since 1996 and has fended off challengers both from his party and from Democrats. In the last election in 2010, Paul easily beat three Republican challengers in the primary and then won reelection against Democrat Robert Pruett in the general election.
Brazoria County Republican Chair Yvonne Dewey said she was not expecting Paul’s announcement, made exclusively to The Facts early Tuesday.
“I’m surprised,” she said. “He has won very handily in the last few elections. He’s hung in there all these years.”
While he has faced many opponents in his own party in recent years, no one has formally announced running for his nomination in the March 2012 primary, Dewey said.
“I think it will be treated as a wide-open seat,” she said. “You will have a lot of candidates on both sides.”
He unsuccessfully ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, and in 2008 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the White House.
Paul said while he is vacating the District 14 seat, he feels his chances for the 2012 Republican nomination are much better than in 2008, when he set fundraising records driven by the Internet.
“We have a lot more support right now,” he said. “Things are doing well for us.”
Paul is traveling the country in his bid for the White House and said he has spent twice the amount of time in New Hampshire and Iowa this year than he did in 2008. Throughout his time in politics, Paul has had a stance of limited government, reduced federal spending, individual liberties and a non-interventionist foreign policy.
“I have been talking about this for years,” he said Tuesday. “I will always be doing that. But not in the U.S. Congress.”
John Tompkins is senior reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-849-8581.