Democrat Sam Farr to Retire From Congress

Farr was first elected in a 1993 special election to succeed Leon Panetta. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., announced Thursday that he'll retire from Congress after more than 22 years.

“For years my wife Shary has asked me to come home,” Farr said in a statement. “She's right. It's time. It's time to come home and spend time with her and with my daughter Jessica and my grandkids Ella and Zach.”

Farr's Monterey-based 20th District is expected to stay in Democratic hands after his retirement. President Barack Obama carried it by a 45-point margin in 2012.

"Sam Farr's district in the California Central Coast is one of the most beautiful districts in the country, from farmlands to the pacific ocean," Michael Trujillo, a California Democratic strategist, told CQ Roll Call in an email Thursday. "You have a growing latino population along with a 2.5:1 Democratic voter registration edge. This district will remain in the Democratic column for the foreseeable future."

The rarity of an open seat in California, and the opening of this particular seat after more than two decades, could make for a crowded primary. Because of the state's top-two election system and the heavy Democratic tilt of the district, it's possible that November's general election will be a contest between two Democrats.

Party operatives suggested several Democrats who could be interested in seeking the seat.

  • James Panetta, the son of former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, has been eyeing this seat for some time . His father held the seat until resigning to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • State Sen. Majority Leader Bill Monning's 17th Senate District overlaps with much of the coastal area of the 20th Congressional District. He'd have to give up his seat to run for Congress.
  • Assemblyman Mark Stone represents the 29th District , which hugs Monterey Bay, in the northern part of Farr's congressional district.
  • Assemblyman Luis Alejo's 30th District also includes much of the 20th congressional district. He's chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus.
  • Jason Burnett, former associate deputy administrator of the EPA, is mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea. As a member of the board of trustees of the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, he's expected to be able to raise money.
  • Jane Parker serves on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
  • Former assembly member Anna Caballero, a member of Gov. Jerry Brown's task force on the drought, announced last week that she would step down Nov. 17 as the governor's consumer services secretary.
  • Santa Cruz City Council member Pamela Comstock, who co-founded the public safety non-profit Take Back Santa Cruz.

Farr's retirement marks another loss for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi , who saw the retirements of two of her closest California allies last cycle: former Reps.  Henry A. Waxman  and George Miller .

Farr is also a top appropriator, serving as the top Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Representing the "salad bowl" of California, a big agricultural center in the state, Farr was one of only 28 House Democrats who voted for fast-tracking Trade Promotion Authority earlier this year.

A Peace Corps alumnus, Farr was first elected in a 1993 special election to succeed Panetta. He's now the 12th House member to retire without seeking another office this cycle. For a full list, see the  Roll Call casualty list .

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