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Steve Israel Will Not Seek Re-Election in 2016

Israel said Tuesday he would not seek re-election in 2016. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat who rose as a leader within his party, said late Tuesday he will not seek a ninth term in Congress.

“I considered this decision deeply, but ultimately, I want to be a team player and ensure that my district, which is the only competitive district in House Democratic Leadership, remains in the hands of Democrats when I leave," he said in a statement. 

"I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel," he added. Israel's first novel, "The Global War on Morris: A Novel," a satire on the war on terror, was published in 2014.

In 2000, Israel won the seat which had been held by a Republican. Since then, he rose through the party's ranks to lead its campaign committee for four years before becoming chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Israel won re-election in 2014 with 55 percent of the vote. Now, a number of Democrats are looking to continue their party's hold – including lawmakers such as Steve Stern and Charles Lavine, and North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, according to Newsday.

One national Republican operative told Roll Call Tuesday that in their party, state Sen. Jack Martins had been looking at a congressional campaign even before Israel's retirement announcement. The operative added that some New York Republicans question why he would want to stick around with the party's state Senate majority in jeopardy.

Asked who he thought might get into the race on the Democratic side, New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel couldn't offer a guess, saying, "Long Island is like Europe to me ... It's almost like the Senate to the House, you know. People think we're so close to each other. No."

He called Israel's decision "well thought out," adding, "that's a risky seat."

Rangel said he, Israel and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, who announced his retirement on Monday, all are in the same club. "What we we are doing is wrapping this thing up for Obama, making certain that we get there and then let younger people come in with Hillary. Makes sense to us."

The 3rd Congressional District is rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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