WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Wally Herger announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, marking the second retirement in recent days from a longstanding GOP member of California's congressional delegation.
Herger, 66, said he would retire after finishing out his 13th term. He is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is a staunch conservative who has been highly critical of the Democratic-led overhaul of health care.
Herger represents the state's 2nd congressional district in far northern California that includes Redding, Paradise and Chico, where Herger lives and made the announcement Tuesday.
Three days earlier, U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, who faced a tough re-election battle because of redistricting, also bypassed another term. Herger's district is still considered a safe Republican seat.
Herger endorsed Republican state Sen. Doug LaMalfa to succeed him. Herger described LaMalfa as a conservative who fully understands and appreciates the district's economy, which revolves around agriculture, timber and tourism.
LaMalfa, 51, is a rice farmer who is in his first term in the state Senate. He previously served in the state Assembly from 2002 until he was termed-limited out in 2008. He won the Senate seat in 2010.
LaMalfa's Senate District 4 covers much of the same area as Herger's current congressional district. However, because of redistricting, the new congressional district will shift to the east to cover several Sierra counties that LaMalfa has not represented.
Herger serves as chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over health issues, such as Medicare and provisions of the tax code pertaining to health care. He cites welfare reform as one of the highlights of his career.
"He helped to shape welfare reform policy, reduce government dependence and ensure that children were provided resources to lift them out of poverty," said U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Herger, who has nine children and 11 grandchildren, said in a press release that the privilege of serving in Congress also led to sacrifices, particularly time spent away from family.
"I want to focus on my family and enjoy spending time with my grandchildren before they grow up," Herger said.
LaMalfa said he would focus on energy policy and would push for more Northern California reservoirs to provide hydroelectricity and to enhance water storage.
"That window opens pretty infrequently here," La Malfa said in a telephone interview. "I'm really enjoying my service in the Senate, but the congressman asked me if I wanted to step in behind him there and I'm honored to do so."
All total, 28 House members have decided not to seek re-election: 17 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Most are running for higher office.
Associated Press writer Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.