SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat and the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said on Saturday he will not seek an eighth term in the House of Representatives, blaming congressional gridlock for his decision.
Gonzalez, 66, did not announce any specific plans once his term ends in 2012. His district was held for 37 years by his now-deceased father Henry Gonzalez, a civil rights icon still referred to in San Antonio simply as ‘Henry B.’
“Congress is a worse place than when I was elected in 1998,” Gonzalez said at a news conference on Saturday.
“My fear is that a lot of members got elected the last cycle with an anti-government message,” he said. “If you don’t believe in the institution you are a part of, it’s over before you get there.”
His seat has been caught up in a redistricting fight between the Texas legislature and the courts but is expected to remain in Democratic hands in the 2012 election, no matter how the boundaries shift, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Joaquin Castro, 37, a state Democratic lawmaker and Harvard graduate whose identical twin is the mayor of San Antonio, plans to formally announce on Saturday he will run in the district.
Gonzalez is the 17th Democrat to retire or leave the Republican-controlled House to run for another office in 2012, Sabato said, noting that only seven sitting House Republicans have made that same decision.
“While it isn’t a conclusive number all by itself, it suggests that many Democrats know their odds of re-taking the House in 2012 are not spectacular,” Sabato said.
“Gonzalez knows the difference between majority and minority status since he has experienced both. The latter is no fun.”
Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao