Westmoreland won’t seek another term in Congress

Coweta County Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election, but he might seek the governor’s mansion in 2018.

Westmoreland, 65, said he was ready to spend more time at home and get someone with a fresh perspective in his seat after six terms, but “there’s always possibilities” about the governor’s race.

“I’m a political guy; it’s in my blood,” Westmoreland said. “But I just thank God I never got Potomac Fever. And I love Georgia. So I don’t know. We’ll see what opportunities come up, if you get any encouragement or whatever. So we’ll see.”

The race to succeed him in the 3rd Congressional District is likely to be highly competitive. Several state legislators could be in line for a run in a district almost certain to elect another Republican.

Westmoreland’s departure further saps the seniority from a green Georgia Republican House delegation. He and U.S. Rep. Tom Price, a Roswell Republican, are the longest-serving GOP House members from the state, both elected for the first time in 2004.

The other eight went to Washington no earlier than 2010.

Westmoreland racked up a conservative voting record, but he also served on the leadership “whip team,” often acting as a liaison between party leaders and 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 during the recent leadership turmoil, but he 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 he 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 by saying last summer that he did not consider the Confederate flag a racist symbol. He also conducted a memorable interview with comedian Steven Colbert in which he could not name all of the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

On policy, Westmoreland was a veteran member of the Financial Services Committee who often fought for Georgia’s small banks, which were decimated during the financial crisis. He serves on the special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, and in that role he has sparred publicly with Hillary Clinton.

The 3rd District stretches from Atlanta’s southern suburbs to Columbus, hugging the state’s western border. Among the Republican legislators representing the area who could consider a jump to Washington: state Sens. Josh McKoon of Columbus, Mike Dugan of Carrollton, Mike Crane of Newnan, Rick Jeffares of McDonough and Marty Harbin of Tyrone; and state Reps. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City and David Knight of Griffin. Former state Sen. Ronnie Chance and Westmoreland’s chief of staff, Matt Brass, also could be in the mix.

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