WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, a moderate Republican from southeastern Pennsylvania, announced Monday that he will retire this year, the latest in a string of congressional Republicans not seeking reelection in 2014.
Gerlach, who has served six terms in Congress and 12 years in the state Legislature, sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which writes taxes.
He is also among a group of suburban Philadelphia Republicans who last year voted with Democrats on several big issues, including Hurricane Sandy relief, the fiscal cliff deal, the Violence Against Women Act, and the agreement to reopen the federal government after a 17-day shutdown.
In a statement, Gerlach said it is “simply time for me to move on to new challenges and to spend more time with my wife and family, who have been extremely supportive and have made significant sacrifices during my tenure in public office.”
Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District leans Republican, but is considered highly competitive. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won it narrowly in 2012.
Gerlach’s departure opens up a potential pickup for Democrats looking to cut the Republican House majority in President Obama’s remaining two years in office.
“To hold that seat you’re going to need a candidate with a strong pragmatic streak," said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). "It’s still a marginal seat, and we’re going to have to nominate a candidate that reflects that type of district.”
Dent said he was surprised by Gerlach’s decision, but not blind-sided. The two, who were both elected to the Pennsylvania state House in 1990, had discussed how long they wanted to stay in office.
“I think part of it is he’s been in 12 years and it’s time to move on,” Dent said. “We’ve talked about how long to stick it out, especially since he was a perennial target and that wears on you after a while.”
Gerlach had considered a bid for governor in 2010, but then ran again for Congress. Aides said he will not challenge Pennsylvania's Republican governor, Tom Corbett, who is running for a second term this November despite approval ratings so low that analysts have called him the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the country.
Vince Galko, an aide to Gerlach, said Gerlach is not running for any other public office in 2014, but has not closed the door to running again in the future.