Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection, adding to the record-breaking number of Republican congressmen retiring ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, including eight other committee chairpeople.
Gowdy, a former prosecutor, made his announcement in a statement released on Twitter, saying that he will not seek any other elected or political office and that he will “return to the justice system.”
“Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in courtroom rather than Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system,” Gowdy said in the release. “As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are the most rewarding.”
Gowdy has served as oversight chair since Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) left Congress last year. Before chairing the oversight committee, Gowdy was chair of the House’s Benghazi Select Committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Democrats roundly criticized the committee — and Gowdy as its chair — for using the investigation to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Gowdy won his seat in 2010, ousting the more moderate Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC).
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and current Trump administration United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley praised Gowdy on Twitter Tuesday, saying that she’d always said the reason Gowdy was “amazing at his job” was because “he disliked politics so much.”
Gowdy is the second high profile Republican chairman to announce he will not seek reelection this week alone. On Monday, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee announced he would not run in 2018, either.
That so many chairmen are stepping down likely reflects a growing belief among Republicans that they may not maintain their majority in the House come the midterm elections, as these are powerful and highly coveted positions that the party would lose along with their majority.
One unnamed senior House Republican put it this way to Politico earlier this month: “It feels like 2006,” year Democrats won 31 seats and made current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Speaker of the House.
Just minutes after Gowdy’s announcement, The Post and Courier reported that Spartanburg GOP chairman Josh Kimbrell would run for Gowdy’s seat. In 2014, Kimbrell, a Christian radio host, was arrested on child molestation charges, though the charges were dropped.
In post on his website a year later, Kimbrell blamed his “vindictive former spouse,” saying their custody battle had “gone nuclear.”
Kimbrell confirmed his intentions on Facebook Wednesday, writing, “With the news that my friend Trey Gowdy is not running for reelection, I am exploring a run for the United States Congress to keep the 4th District on the national stage in the conservative fight.”
The Post and Courier also reports Wednesday that Republican South Carolina State Sen. William Timmons will also run to replace Gowdy.
Though Gowdy’s district is considered a safe Republican district, three Democrats have jumped into the race for the seat. Gowdy won in 2016 with 67 percent of the vote, while President Trump won South Carolina in 2016 with 54 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 40 percent.