By John Celock
One of the nation’s top Republican congressional leaders has announced plans to retire from Congress this year rather than face what was shaping up to be a tough reelection fight.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) announced Monday that he would not seek a 12th term in his suburban New Jersey district. The move comes as Democrats have united behind Navy veteran Mikie Sherill to challenge Frelinghuysen in what has become a targeted district for Democrats.
“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “Public service is an incredible way to turn your convictions into something that serves the greater good and to do it alongside people from every walk of life and background.”
Frelinghuysen, a moderate Republican, did not touch on the Sherill challenge or the growing progressive opposition he has seen in his suburban district since President Trump’s 2016 election. Frelinghuysen’s Morristown office has become a hub for regular pickets and sits blocks from the location of New Jersey’s largest women’s march earlier this month.
Frelinghuysen’s district includes solid Republican areas in Morris, Passaic and Sussex Counties, along with heavily Democratic areas, centered in Morristown and Montclair. The district also includes a series of swing communities in Essex and Morris Counties.
Frelinghuysen is part of a growing list of congressional Republicans and House committee chairs to retire this year rather than seek reelection in what is shaping up to be a tough year for Republicans. Frelinghuysen has been Appropriations Committee chairman for the last year, previously heading the powerful defense subcommittee on the spending panel. Frelinghuysen faced backlash from House conservatives last year for being the only committee chairman to oppose the tax reform plan proposed by Trump.
Frelinghuysen is a scion of one of New Jersey’s longest serving political families, with his great-great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Frelinghuysen, representing New Jersey in the Continental Congress and in the U.S. Senate in the 1700s. Frelinghuysen’s father, Peter, represented New Jersey in Congress, while his great-great grandfather, Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, was a U.S. senator from New Jersey and U.S. secretary of state in the Arthur Administration. A great-great-great uncle was also a U.S. senator and a 1844 candidate for vice president. A town in Warren County is named after the Frelinghuysen family.
On his mother’s side, Frelinghuysen is an heir to the Proctor & Gamble fortune.
Frelinghuysen has served in public office since his 1974 election to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. In 1983, he was elected to the state Assembly, where he served until his 1994 election to Congress. While in the state Legislature, he chaired the budget committee.
Frelinghuysen’s retirement opens the door for what is likely to be a competitive battle for the Republican nomination. Assemblyman Jay Webber, state Sen. Kristin Corrado and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco have all been mentioned as likely candidates. Webber, a conservative Republican who has served in the Legislature since 2008 and is a former state GOP chairman, has long been mentioned as a potential Frelinghuysen successor. Bucco, the son of a state senator, has served in the Assembly since 2009, when he defeated his brother-in-law in a Republican primary. Corrado was elected to the Senate last year while in her second term as Passaic County clerk. The GOP nominee will face off against Sherill, a Montclair resident who has gained traction among Democrats.