WASHINGTON — New York City Representative John Katko, a centrist Republican who broke with his party last year to vote to impeach former President Donald J. Trump, announced Friday that he would not run for re-election.
Mr Katko was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump and is the third member of that group to announce his retirement.
In a statement that came almost exactly a year after that vote, Mr. Katko that he had decided to give up on “enjoying my family and life more fully and more.” He added that the loss of both his own parents and his wife’s parents over the past three years has “provided me with a life-changing perspective”.
“My conscience, principles and dedication to doing the right thing have guided every decision I have made as a member of Congress, and they guide my decision today,” he said.
Mr. Katko, a former federal prosecutor, had been increasingly marginalized by conservatives at home and among House Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have demanded total loyalty to Mr Trump, downplayed the seriousness of the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, and work with President Biden. Those who stray from that course have found themselves attracting primary challengers, being pushed to the sidelines of the party, or both.
A look ahead to the 2022 US midterm elections
Mr. Katko’s sins in the eyes of his own party included supporting the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riots and supporting a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan launched by Mr. Biden. defended. He had already drawn three primary challengers and, if he survived, faced the possibility of a brutal general election campaign.
New York Democrats, who tried and failed for years to oust him from the Syracuse-based seat, are currently looking at new lines of Congress that could make the district virtually unwinnable for Republicans, even in a year when officials from both parties believe the GOP is in the advantage is.
The Democrats and Mr Trump found rare common ground to applaud Mr Katko’s decision.
“Great news, another bite in the dust,” Mr Trump, who had volunteered to help those vying to unseat Mr Katko in a primary, said in a statement.
Abel Iraola, a spokesperson for the House Democrats campaign arm, said the retirement highlighted how the Republican Party’s right-wing drift has “made it “toxic to so-called GOP moderates.”
Mr Katko was among a shrinking group of lawmakers who appealed to voters outside his own party. When Mr. Biden won his New York Central District by 9 points in 2020, Mr. Katko won by 10 points.
But the same centrist credentials that made Mr. Katko was able to cling to his seat made him a target in conservative circles. After Republican leaders instructed him to work with Democrats on a proposal to create an independent commission on Jan. 6, they then abandoned the effort to protect Mr. Trump and the party from further investigation. , urging lawmakers to oppose Mr Katko’s plan. negotiated.
When Democrats formed their own select committee to investigate the riots, Mr. Katko infuriated far-right members by voting in October to detain Stephen K. Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress for obstructing their investigation.
And Mr. Katko was one of 13 House Republicans to vote for the infrastructure bill in November, prompting some in his party to call him and the other GOP supporters of the legislation “traitors” and call for Mr. Katko is stripped of his leadership role on the Homeland Security Committee. He would have lined up to become the panel’s chairman if Republicans won control of the House.
The fury of his right flank followed Mr. Katko home. The Conservative Party, a small New York party that supports Republicans in most races, had denounced him last April and formally withdrew its support for his reelection bid after he voted in favor of a Democratic bill that would protect gay and lesbian people. expanding transgender rights.
Bernard Ment, the party chairman in Onondaga County, home of Syracuse, said that position was the last straw. In an interview, he called Mr. Katko a “Democrat,” although he retained the support of his local Republican Party organization.
“He’s the only man who’s tried to work on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Ment said. “The problem is, he’s managed to alienate a lot of conservative voters and tick off a lot of Republicans, and I don’t think he can make up for it with Democratic voters.”
Democrats controlling the New York state government in Albany are widely expected to try to fill the district with new Democratic voters as they redraw the state’s congressional districts in the coming weeks, giving their party a major advantage in November. . Three Democrats – two of them veterans – have already entered the race.
With Mr. Katko and his crossover appeal out of the way, Democrats are likely to be less afraid of a Republican winning his district, giving them more leeway to further expand their majority as they redraw the map. New rules could bring as many as four new seats to Democrats in the House and deprive Republicans of five they currently have. (New York will lose one congressional seat this year after nationwide redistribution.)
Mr Katko, for his part, has maintained his focus on supporting his party’s policy priorities, particularly against Mr Biden’s immigration policies, and working towards getting results for his district. Last year, he made clear in a statement how dangerous he thought the former president’s behavior in the run-up to January 6.
“Allowing the President of the United States to instigate this attack without consequences poses a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” said Mr. katko. “That’s why I can’t stand by without taking action.”
Nicholas Fandos message from New York.