Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced on Jan. 31 that he won't seek reelection in 2018, joining more than a dozen Republican members of Congress who will retire. (Sarah Parnass,Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce said Monday he will not seek reelection this year, adding his name to a growing list of senior Republican lawmakers who have chosen to retire in what is shaping up to be a difficult election year for the GOP.

Royce (R-Calif.), first elected in 1992, is one of eight House Republican chairmen who have announced they will forego a reelection campaign for the House ahead of the midterm elections. Like most of the others, he would have lost his gavel in the next Congress in accordance with party rules that place a three-term limit on a chairman’s service. In a statement, Royce said he wanted to focus on that committee work during his final months in office.

“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia,” he said. “With this in mind, and with the support of my wife Marie, I have decided not to seek reelection in November.”

The past year has been a busy one for Royce, who played a key role in slapping new sanctions on North Korea, pressuring the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and pushing for a more aggressive approach toward Iran and its client regimes.


House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) in July on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Even before his retirement, Democrats were eyeing Royce’s Orange County district as a key pickup opportunity. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the 39th Congressional District by nine points over Donald Trump in 2016, and several credible Democratic candidates have launched campaigns for the seat.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the district as being evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Most congressional forecasters have rated the seat as leaning toward Republicans, however, based on Royce’s strong declarations that he would seek another term this year.

In September, after Democrats included Royce in a list of Republicans likely to retire, an aide said that Royce was “100 percent running for reelection.”

Other GOP House chairmen who have announced their retirements are Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) of the Judiciary Committee, Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) of the Financial Services Committee, Bill Shuster (Pa.) of the Transportation Committee and Lamar Smith (Tex.) of the Science Committee. Three others, Diane Black (Tenn.) of the Budget Committee, Jason Chaffetz (Utah) of the Oversight Committee and Gregg Harper (Miss.) of the House Administration Committee, announced their decisions not to seek reelection before their terms would have expired.