Rep. Bob Good­latte, the se­nior Repub­li­can in Vir­ginia’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, an­nounced he will re­tire.

He said Tues­day’s vote did not prompt de­ci­sion

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JENNA PORTNOY

Two days af­ter Repub­li­cans suf­fered sweep­ing de­feats up and down the bal­lot in Vir­ginia, Rep. Bob Good­latte (R), chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, an­nounced Thurs­day he will not seek re­elec­tion.

The 13-term con­gress­man from Roanoke will end his con­gres­sional ca­reer “af­ter much con­tem­pla­tion and prayer,” he said in a state­ment.

“With my time as chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee end­ing in De­cem­ber 2018,” he said, “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.”

House rules bar Good­latte from serv­ing an­other term as chair­man of the in­flu­en­tial com­mit­tee. He was pre­vi­ously chair­man of the House Agri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee.

Good­latte joins more than a dozen mostly Repub­li­can mem­bers of the House and Se­nate who plan to re­tire at a time when the GOP-con­trolled Con­gress has strug­gled to pass ma­jor leg­is­la­tion, such as a re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

On a call with re­porters, Good­latte said the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate “didn’t play a role” in his de­ci­sion.

If he ran again, he could have faced a tough fight for the GOP nom­i­na­tion. As an elected of­fi­cial for more than a quar­ter-cen­tury, he has been a tar­get of ac­tivists with dis­dain for en­trenched politi­cians.

“There are a lot of le­git­i­mately

an­gry peo­ple out here who are frus­trated with the in­ac­tion of Wash­ing­ton gen­er­ally and are fo­cus­ing their anger on in­cum­bents who they per­ceive as be­ing part of the prob­lem,” said state Del. C. Todd Gil­bert (R-Shenan­doah), a Good­latte ally whose district over­laps his. “If you have been there as long as Bob has been, you rightly wear part of that crit­i­cism.”

Within hours of his an­nounce­ment, two Repub­li­cans — a con­ser­va­tive state del­e­gate who once worked for Good­latte and a GOP na­tional com­mit­tee­woman — an­nounced they would com­pete for the nom­i­na­tion. Both are set­ting them­selves as Wash­ing­ton out­siders.

Good­latte, 65, the most se­nior Repub­li­can in the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, is known as a stu­dent of pol­icy who closely fol­lows state and lo­cal GOP pol­i­tics.

Over the next 14 months, he said, he hopes to bol­ster en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws and over­haul the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem as well as sim­plify the tax code, en­act crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act.

He would do this while “ad­vanc­ing pro­tec­tions of the free­doms and lib­er­ties en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

The con­gress­man made news in Jan­uary when his plan to gut the Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics prompted pub­lic out­cry and crit­i­cal tweets from the in­com­ing Pres­i­dent Trump, whose poli­cies Good­latte has pub­licly sup­ported.

Last year, Trump eas­ily car­ried his district, which stretches from the Shenan­doah Val­ley to the Roanoke Val­ley and east to Lynch­burg. Ed Gille­spie, the Repub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor, won 61 per­cent of the vote in the district this week, de­spite los­ing the state by 9 points.

De­spite a solid con­ser­va­tive vot­ing record, Good­latte has drawn the ire of Repub­li­can ac­tivists in his district, in­clud­ing those who run the in­flu­en­tial party ap­pa­ra­tus.

Cyn­thia Dun­bar, a GOP na­tional com­mit­tee­woman, and Del. Ben­jamin L. Cline (R-Rock­bridge), Good­latte’s for­mer chief of staff, said Thurs­day they are run­ning for the GOP nom­i­na­tion.

Dun­bar said she has “wit­nessed first­hand the dis­ar­ray and dys­func­tion in­side Con­gress which is crip­pling our Re­pub­lic” when it comes to the na­tional debt, taxes and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

“As con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­va­tives, we can no longer al­low ca­reer politi­cians to fo­cus on the next elec­tion as op­posed to cur­rent prob­lems fac­ing our na­tion,” she said.

Cline an­nounced his cam­paign with sim­i­lar rhetoric, say­ing he was “fed up with the dys­func­tion grip­ping Wash­ing­ton.”

“For far too long, Wash­ing­ton in­sid­ers have ig­nored fam­i­lies out­side their in­su­lar ‘Belt­way.’ Again and again they have proved they are out of touch and tonedeaf to our strug­gles,” he said, while thank­ing his for­mer boss for his ser­vice.

Democrats Ser­gio Cop­pola and Peter Volosin are run­ning, and Andy Parker, the fa­ther of a broad­cast jour­nal­ist who was killed on live tele­vi­sion two years ago, said he is con­sid­er­ing join­ing the Demo­cratic field.

Eric Can­tor, the for­mer House ma­jor­ity leader who was beaten in 2014 in the Repub­li­can pri­mary by Rep. Dave Brat, said Good­latte dis­patched with past pri­mary chal­lengers with what looked like rel­a­tive ease.

“But it wasn’t some­thing that just came by chance,” he said. “He al­ways was de­lib­er­ate about mak­ing sure he was there for the peo­ple of Roanoke Val­ley and the 6th District.”

Vir­ginia Democrats Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, who en­tered Con­gress the same year as Good­latte, and Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine noted they didn’t of­ten agree with his poli­cies but thanked Good­latte and his wife, Maryellen.

The son of a man­ager of Friendly’s restau­rants in Mas­sachusetts, Good­latte stud­ied gov­ern­ment at Bates Col­lege in Maine and earned a law de­gree from Wash­ing­ton and Lee Univer­sity. He likes to visit the homes of for­mer pres­i­dents of both par­ties.

He ran for Con­gress in 1992 — with the help of Tim Phillips, now pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity — on a prom­ise to serve only 12 years. He later aban­doned the pledge, say­ing every­one must agree to term lim­its for the pol­icy to work.

As Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man, he re­jected calls from within his party to try to im­peach Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and the IRS com­mis­sioner, say­ing there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

Good­latte said he was proud of his work on the USA Free­dom Act, which kept phone data out of gov­ern­ment hands and re­vised fed­eral gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance prac­tices, and the Per­ma­nent In­ter­net Tax Free­dom Act, which af­firmed the ban on In­ter­net taxes.

He re­cently co-spon­sored a bill in­tro­duced by Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock (R-Va.) that would ex­pand the au­thor­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­port or de­tain nonci­t­i­zen im­mi­grants who are gang mem­bers or sus­pected of gang ac­tiv­ity.

The leg­is­la­tion, a re­sponse to an in­crease in killings per­pet­u­ated by the MS-13 gang, was panned by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and im­mi­grant right groups.

In a speech on the House floor, Good­latte said whether im­mi­grants are here il­le­gally or have visas or per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus, “it is time to send the mes­sage that this be­hav­ior sim­ply will not be tol­er­ated.”

Sur­vey­ing Goo­datte’s ser­vice, Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Pol­icy and Gov­ern­ment at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity, said the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is dis­cour­ag­ing in­cum­bents at the state and fed­eral level.

“Mem­bers not only have to worry about chal­lenges from the op­pos­ing party but a grow­ing level of op­po­si­tion from within their party if they are not com­plete purists on ev­ery is­sue,” he said. For that rea­son, he said, it’s un­der­stand­able if mem­bers “be­come frus­trated and say, ‘ I don’t need this any­more.’ ”

The Vir­ginia del­e­ga­tion has been los­ing clout in re­cent years through the re­tire­ment or de­feat of se­nior mem­bers. In ad­di­tion to Can­tor’s loss, Demo­crat James P. Mo­ran and Repub­li­can Frank R. Wolf re­tired in 2014. Reps. Scott Rigell (R) and Robert Hurt (R) de­clined to seek re­elec­tion last year, the same year Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R) lost his seat in a pri­mary af­ter switch­ing dis­tricts.

Rep. H. Mor­gan Grif­fith (R-Va.), who has been friends with Good­latte since the 1980s, said he’ll miss his col­league but that the job isn’t meant to last a life­time.

“Ev­ery politi­cian has a shelf life,” he said, “it’s just dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­body.”

“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.” Rep. Bob Good­latte


Rep. Bob Good­latte is chair­man of the in­flu­en­tial House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.


Foes of Pres­i­dent Trump hold a rally in Front Royal, part of Rep. Bob Good­latte’s district, in April. Good­latte said Tues­day’s Demo­cratic vic­to­ries in Vir­ginia “didn’t play a role” in his de­ci­sion to re­tire.

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