Rep. Jim Langevin will not seek reelection, the longtime congressman announced Wednesday y in an op-ed in The Providence Journal.
"I have not come to this decision lightly, but it is time for me to chart a new course, which will allow me to stay closer to home and spend more time with my family and friends," Langevin wrote in the op-ed. "And while I don’t know what’s next for me just yet, whatever I do will always be in service of Rhode Island."
Langevin, 57, has represented Rhode Island's second congressional district since 2001, when he became the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress.
At age 16, Langevin was working with the Warwick Police Department as part of a Boy Scout program when a gun was accidentally discharged. The bullet struck Langevin and left him paralyzed.
He went on to serve in the Rhode Island General Assembly and as secretary of state before being elected to Congress.
"For the last 37 years, I have woken up every day with one goal in mind: serving the people of Rhode Island. After all, I love this state, and I love the people who live here," Langevin wrote in his op-ed, calling his career in public service "the privilege of a lifetime."
Appearing on WPRO on Tuesday, Langevin said that the job of serving in the House of Representatives had been “very consuming” and that he hoped to do “something that keeps me closer to home” and allows for a better work-life balance.
Langevin said that he “thought about running for governor in the last year” but “determined that I couldn’t do this job justice, in terms of serving in Congress and running for governor at the same time.”
“That decision has not changed,” Langevin said, emphasizing that he won’t be on the ballot in November.
As for whether he will run for office again: “I would never say never.”
More than two dozen Democratic members of Congress have announced that they will not seek reelection in 2022, with some citing frustrations with increasing polarization. The party is widely expected to lose a number of seats to Republicans in the midterm elections.
Speaking to WPRO on Tuesday, Langevin said the political climate had “changed a lot” since he first ran for office, and described himself as "more of a policy wonk than a political guy."
"We’ve got to find a way to find the center and work together," Langevin said.
In his words: Why I won't be running for reelection in 2022
Redistricting Rhode Island: Census Bureau: RI will keep both congressional seats
What are Langevin's political views
In addition to his advocacy for people with disabilities, Langevin is known for his focus on cybersecurity issues.
He is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairs its subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems. He is also a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security.
In a notable shift, Langevin announced in September that he would support a federal law guaranteeing the right to an abortion.
For decades, Langevin had been one of the most prominent pro-life Democrats in Rhode Island. "Although I remain personally opposed to abortion, as a matter of public policy, my position has evolved," he wrote in a September op-ed in The Journal.
Was Langevin being challenged?
He received 58% of the vote in the 2016 general election.
Though Langevin was generally thought to hold a safe seat in a blue state, some political observers had speculated that Rhode Island's population would drop in the 2020 census, requiring the state to eliminate one of its two congressional districts.
Who will control Congress?: House departures set up uncertain future for chamber's balance
That would have potentially set off a battle between Langevin and fellow Democratic Rep. David Cicilline. As it turned out, Rhode Island kept both congressional seats.
“The story of Jim Langevin will forever be remembered as one of perseverance and a dedication to public service. It is one that will inspire our colleagues in government today and the future leaders of our state and nation for generations to come,” Cicilline said in a statement. "I extend my sincere appreciation to Jim for being such a true friend and trusted partner in government, and for his decades of faithful service to our state.”
Langevin’s surprise announcement quickly prompted speculation about which politicians might consider running to replace him. His departure will mark the first time since 2010 that one of the state’s four congressional seats is wide open, which could draw interest from some candidates who had previously set their sights on running for governor in 2022.
The district spans western Rhode Island, including all of Washington and Kent counties, Cranston and parts of Providence. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who are both running for governor, both live in the district, as do former GOP gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung and his wife, state Rep. Barbara Fenton-Fung.
Gorbea quickly quashed speculation on Tuesday while thanking Langevin for his service on behalf of Rhode Island.
"Thank you @JimLangevin for your 3.5 decades of service to our state," she wrote on Twitter. "On my part, I remain committed to serving Rhode Islanders and look forward to partnering with our federal delegation as the state’s next governor."
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, another Democrat seen as a potential contender, wrote: "Today is a day to recognize his personal achievements and accomplishments, not for future political speculation. I wish Jim all the best in his future endeavors."
Fung and Fenton-Fung similarly wrote in a joint statement: "Today is the day to thank Congressman @JimLangevin for his endless work on behalf of individuals with disabilities [...] We thank him for his decades of service to Rhode Island, and wish him nothing but the best of health and happiness as he looks to what lies ahead."
Speaking to WPRO on Tuesday, Langevin mentioned Shekarchi and Gorbea as potential successors, in addition to Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos.
Former state Rep. Robert Lancia, a Republican who previously challenged Langevin, sent out a fundraising email to supporters on Tuesday.
"This is our chance. Will you chip in $10 now and capitalize on this momentum?" the email said.
Meanwhile, tributes to Langevin poured in.
"Rhode Island is a better place thanks to the leadership and dedication of public servants like Congressman @JimLangevin," Gov. Dan McKee wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Jack Reed hailed Langevin as "a great champion for making the federal government more accessible and accountable, and making our community and country a more inclusive place."
"Where others see challenges, Jim sees chances for change and progress. He has used his considerable talents to uplift others," Reed said in a statement. "I will miss serving with Jim after he retires at the end of the year, but I look forward to working alongside him for the next several months to deliver for the people of Rhode Island.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said that for people with disabilities, Langevin is "an icon whose success and grace are an example that means a lot throughout the world."
“Jim’s courage and decency make him a personal hero of mine, so I have very mixed feelings about his retirement, but I’m sure he’s made the right decision in his own life," he wrote, adding, "Onward, brother, with my love and admiration.”
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Jim Langevin, RI Democrat, will not seek reelection Congress in 2022