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Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) announced Thursday that he has decided not to run for re-election in 2008, becoming the third Republican House Member this week to reveal plans to leave Congress.
Pickering released a statement late Thursday afternoon saying that the time has come for him to pursue "new experiences in the private arena," though he made clear this is not the end of his political career.
"I continue to view public service as a noble calling," he said. "I am not saying a final farewell, but hopefully, simply taking a leave of absence."
The Congressman, who turned 44 on Aug. 10, also said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including his five sons ranging in age from 8 to 17.
While speculation swirled Thursday that Pickering might resign his seat to take a lucrative job on K Street — something he briefly pondered in 2003 — his statement made clear that he plans to serve out the remainder of his term.
"I look forward to continuing my service in this Congress as I fulfill this term," he said. "Beyond that, I have no plans, but I am content and confident that I will find new ways to serve and contribute."
Pickering has long been known to be interested in running for Senate.
However, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) won a fourth term last year and is scheduled to serve until at least 2012, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is expected to seek a sixth term next year, which would put him in office until 2014 if he wins, as is expected at this point.
Mississippi’s 3rd district is solid GOP territory, and Republicans are expected to easily retain the seat in 2008. Pickering won a sixth term with 78 percent of the vote in November.
There is expected to be no shortage of Republicans interested in succeeding Pickering.
Pickering is the third House Republican to announce his retirement plans this week. Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) announced her intention to forgo re-election Thursday, and former Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) is expected to do the same Friday.
— David M. Drucker and Lauren W. Whittington.