(Adds details about Hastings' district)
WASHINGTON Feb 13 U.S. Representative Richard
"Doc" Hastings, a Republican from Washington state, said on
Thursday that he would not run for re-election in November in
his largely rural district that has leaned heavily Republican.
Hastings, who was first elected to the House of
Representatives in 1994, said: "Last Friday, I celebrated my
73rd birthday and while I have the ability and seniority to
continue serving central Washington, it is time for the voters
to choose a new person with new energy to represent them in the
Hastings, chairman of the House Committee on Natural
Resources, said a desire to spend more time with his family in
Washington was an important factor in his decision.
Voters in the district backed Republican presidential
nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama in the 2012 race
for the White House by a tally of 60 percent to 38 percent. The
district, known as the state's Fourth Congressional District,
covers a vast extent of central Washington, stretching from the
borders of Oregon to Canada.
The district has been drawn by the state's redistricting
commission as a safe Republican seat, most recently ahead of the
2012 elections, said Knute Berger, a Seattle-based political
analyst and writer. "I haven't seen any numbers that would
indicate that is not true presently," he said.
Hastings has won at least 59.9 percent of the vote in each
bid for re-election starting in 1998.
Peter May, chair of the University of Washington's political
science department, said even with the district's
right-of-center makeup, there could be a closely contested race
for Hastings' seat if Republicans run a hard-line conservative
and Democrats put forward a centrist.
"Things can change dramatically when you move to an open
seat," he said.
Hastings served in the Washington state legislature before
winning a congressional seat on his second try in 1994, when
Republicans gained a majority in the House for the first time in
Democrat Jay Inslee, unseated by Hastings in 1994, went on
to win election to the House from another Washington state
district, and last year he was elected as the state's governor.
"I always appreciated Doc's hard work on behalf of the 4th
district," Inslee said in a statement.
(Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington and Jonathan Kaminsky in
Olympia, Washinton; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Mohammad