NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman, a 15-term Democrat from New York known for his colorful rhetoric and advocacy for Israel, said on Thursday he would not seek re-election this autumn.
Ackerman, in announcing his retirement, said in a statement he was stepping down even though planned congressional redistricting appeared to be "extraordinarily favorable" to him.
"During my years in Congress, it has been my pleasure to address the needs of thousands of individual constituents," he said. "I am most thankful for the opportunity I've had to serve my country and my community."
Ackerman, 69, was first elected to Congress in 1983 and was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Financial Services Committee. His district includes part of the New York City borough of Queens and some of Long Island.
He is known as a strong advocate of U.S. support for Israel and for his tough questioning of officials in congressional hearings.
A clip of Ackerman telling Securities and Exchange Commission officials during a 2008 congressional hearing that "you people are completely inept" garnered over 130,000 views on YouTube.
"You couldn't find your backside with two hands if the lights were on," Ackerman said in the remarks referring to the fraud carried out by Bernard Madoff.
In a statement, House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi praised Ackerman as "a leading voice on foreign affairs" and said that as a Financial Services Committee member he had "helped shape our efforts to reform Wall Street."
Reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney