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Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) announced Thursday that she will not seek a ninth term in her Columbus-based seat in 2008.
In explaining her decision, Pryce said she wanted to spend more time with her children and with her aging parents.
“My daughter Caroline, who passed away, I missed a lot of growing up, and I don't want that to happen again,” she said, according to The Columbus Dispatch, later adding: “There's a lot to do at home, and I can't do it on weekends anymore.”
After not having a competitive race for several years, Pryce narrowly won in 2006 against Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy in a 1,055-vote victory in a difficult election cycle for the GOP that cost them a majority in both chambers. Pryce also bowed out of her leadership role as House Republican Conference chairwoman at the end of the 109th Congress when it became clear that she was vulnerable to a leadership challenge and would be unlikely to win in a race. Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) succeeded her in that post.
Pryce has long been an ally of Rep. Dennis Hastert and served with the Illinois Republican for half of his tenure as the longest-serving GOP Speaker. Hastert also will announce his retirement Friday.
With national Democrats united behind her, Kilroy is running again in 2008 and she is not expected to have a difficult fight for the party’s nomination even now that it will be an open seat.
Republicans appear to be uniting behind former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro as the party's desired nominee. Petro lost a gubernatorial primary last year. State Sen. Steve Stivers (R), another possible candidate mentioned, has said he will run for re-election and not seek Pryce's Congressional seat.
In a statement Thursday, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) said: “There is a strong Republican bench in [the 15th district], and over the next several weeks we will be meeting with candidates who are interested in continuing her good work in Congress. This is a Republican seat that we plan on keeping Republican for a long time to come.”
The district has trended more and more in favor of Democrats in recent years and Pryce now represents a purely swing seat. Voters there split almost evenly between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election.
Columbus-based Democratic consultant Dale Butland said he believed that having another tough campaign on the horizon likely factored into Pryce’s decision.
“The prospect of another grueling race certain tends to concentrate the mind and I think that given the fact that President Bush’s popularity is even lower than it was when she barely squeaked by before, I think made her realize that this was going to be a very difficult uphill fight,” Butland said.
Republican campaign strategists have said that they do not expect an onslaught of surprise retirements from within their ranks this cycle, though Pryce’s decision was not expected and caught leaders off guard.