WASHINGTON ― Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), a veteran lawmaker who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced he won’t seek re-election this year.
Royce, who has represented his Orange County congressional district since 1993, is serving his last year as head of the influential committee under the term limits for chairmanships adopted by the House Republican caucus. He joins several other GOP congressmen who, similarly faced with having to give up committee chairmanships, have decided to retire rather than run for re-election this November.
The list includes including Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Lamar Smith, also of Texas, Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania and House Administration Committee Chair Gregg Harper of Mississippi.
Overall, the number of Republicans leaving the House after this session is far outpacing that of Democrats. In addition to Royce, at least 30 House Republicans have announced they are retiring, running for another office or resigning outright, according to a CNN tracker. Only 16 Democrats have done the same.
The disparity is among the factors boosting the hopes of Democrats that they can capture control of the chamber in November’s vote.
Royce was among the top Democratic targets of House seats the party want to flip in this year’s elections. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried his district ― an increasingly diverse enclave of residents ― by 9 percentage points in the 2016 election.
Nonpartisan election handicapper Crystal Ball, which is led by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, revised the rating for California’s 39th Congressional District following Royce’s announcement. Instead of “leaning Republican,” the race is now a “toss-up,” according to Crystal Ball managing editor Kyle Kondik.
Royce touted his accomplishments in a statement. “In recent years, we’ve made a real difference,” he said. “We’ve enacted critical reforms to combat the modern-day slavery of human trafficking. We’ve achieved common sense tax and regulatory reforms to help small businesses and middle-class families realize their American dream. And with great persistence, we’ve helped shut down the global ivory trade to save the world’s most majestic animals and deny vital funding to terrorist groups and criminal networks.”
In his final year at the the helm of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce said he would be focusing on “the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture Western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia.”