Updated 4:50 p.m. | Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts announced Friday he will retire at the end of the 114th Congress.
A Republican from the 16th District, Pitts was first elected in 1996, when he promised to serve only five terms. He's now served 10.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of Southeast Pennsylvania in Lancaster, Chester, and Berks counties," Pitts said in a statement announcing his retirement. "I thank my constituents for giving me the privilege of representing them in Congress for the past 19 years.”
Pitts leaves vacant a GOP-leaning seat in the Lancaster area. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried it by a 6-point margin in 2012, while President Barack Obama won it by 1 point four years earlier. The district was rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call before Pitts' retirement.
With the seat open for the first time in 20 years, GOP operatives say they expect a contested primary. Names mentioned most are:
- Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin, who announced in October he would seek the seat if Pitts were to retire. Martin's announcement was the first big sign that Pitts was eyeing an exit from Congress after next year.
- State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, whose state Senate district also includes parts of Lancaster County.
- Former state Rep. John Bear, who did not run for re-election in 2012.
- Chet Beiler, a Lancaster County Republican who lost a primary for lieutenant governor in 2010.
- And Dan White, a businessman from Chester County.
Democrats say they want to make the seat competitive, but the district is not rich with Democratic elected officials.
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