After 11 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election to take some time at home with his family -- and to consider running for governor in 2018.
Westmoreland told WSB-Radio's Jamie Dupree in Washington: "I think you have to always keep opportunities open." When Dupree asked specifically about the governor's race, Westmoreland replied:
"Well, I don’t know. I think a lot depends on that. You know, I’ve had people tell me that: 'Well, if you’re going to run for governor, you know, you need to stay in Congress.' And that’s not me. I’m not going to stay in Congress just so I can leapfrog into something else. So this will give me two years, or at least a year, to really kind of decide what I want to do, listen to people. People have encouraged me. You know I think it’s something I would definitely consider. It’s not ruled out of my life."
First elected in 2004, Westmoreland and Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, are the longest-tenured Republicans in Georgia's House delegation.
Westmoreland racked up a conservative voting record, but also served on the leadership "whip team," often acting as a liaison between party leaders and arch-conservative southern members.
Westmoreland ran the redistricting program for national Republicans following the 2010 census that helped cement the House majority. He flirted with a run for U.S. House Speaker in the recent leadership turmoil, but stepped aside when Paul Ryan decided to do it.
Canny and politically minded, Westmoreland has been something of a leader behind the scenes for the young Georgia Republican House delegation. His influence was credited for getting all 10 Georgians to vote publicly for Speaker John Boehner a year ago.
Westmoreland is often quippy and candid, but has shown an ability to put his foot in his mouth at times. He courted controversy by calling President Barack Obama "uppity" during the 2008 campaign, and saying last summer that he did not consider the Confederate flag a racist symbol. He also had a memorable sit-down with comedian Steven Colbert.
Westmoreland also serves on the special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, in which he sparred publicly with Hillary Clinton.
His Third District seat is safely Republican.
Here's Westmoreland's full prepared statement on leaving Congress:
“After a busy fall in Congress, I finally had the opportunity for quiet reflection over the Christmas break. I spent time in prayer and with my family, and with their blessing, have decided I will no longer seek reelection for Georgia’s Third Congressional District.
“It has been an honor to serve Georgia’s Third District for the last twelve years, and I believe it is time to pass the torch to our next conservative voice. Washington, D.C. is a much different environment in 2016 than when I was elected in 2004. I know all too well the challenges the new representative will face, and pledge to offer my support and guidance to the next candidate.
“Joan and I want to thank the people of Georgia’s Third District. We are forever blessed to have received your support and friendship during my time in office. I look forward to this next chapter in my life; returning to my community and spending more time with family and friends.”