Updated 4 p.m. | Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., will retire from Congress after just three terms, he announced Monday, saying he wants to spend more time with his family.
Nugent, 64, leaves vacant a safe Republican seat based in northwestern Florida. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won it in 2012 by a 19-point margin — meaning the Republican primary is likely to produce the next member from this seat.
"After five years of living out of a suitcase, saying goodbye almost weekly to my beloved wife, and seeing pictures of the grandkids instead of spending more of that quality time with them, the tug of being apart from my family has just become too great," Nugent said in a news release.
This district is slated to change dramatically if the state Supreme Court adopts a redistricted congressional map that a judge recommended last month. The new 11th District would encompass the entirety of the Villages — a massive retirement community that has a high concentration of Republican voters.
Justin Grabelle, Nugent's current chief of staff, announced he's running for the seat shortly after Nugent's announcement.
But multiple GOP operatives say the open seat could be a safe haven for Rep. Daniel Webster, the Orlando-area Republican whose district is also likely to change dramatically — making it unwinnable for a Republican. Webster's current seat would encompass about half of the new 11th District, and GOP operatives say his current run for speaker as the anti-establishment Republican could endear him to the district's tea-party-leaning electorate.
Other potential contenders include:
- State Sen. Wilton Simpson — though GOP operatives say it’s unclear whether Simpson’s residence would be within the redrawn district.
- State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who is currently the chair of the Florida Republican party. Ingoglia is from Hernando County, which will be a smaller portion of the district in its redrawn form.
- State Sen. Charlie Dean, a former sheriff from Citrus County who is termed out of office. Citrus, however, is a small portion of the new district, which would make the race challenging.
Nugent, a former sheriff from Hernando County, came to Congress in 2010, winning an open-seat race to replace retiring Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.
He is the 10th House member to announce a retirement from Congress without seeking another office.
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