Five-term Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year rather than stand for reelection, leaving behind a deeply conservative district in central Florida.
Rooney, 47, was considered a rising star among Florida Republicans, but he never hid his frustration with the gridlock that gripped Congress for most of his decade in office.
He becomes the 28th House Republican to quit politics — at least for now — this election season. That group includes several committee chairmen and a handful who resigned in pursuit of private-sector jobs or amid scandal. Fourteen more House Republicans are leaving their seats to run for another office. Eighteen House Democrats have announced that they are not seeking reelection; half are running for higher office.
“After what will be 10 years in the United States Congress representing the good people of Florida’s Heartland, it’s time to ‘hang em up’ as my old football coach used to say,” Rooney, a grandson of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, said in a statement.
He said that he looked forward to “serving Florida again in the future in a different capacity.”
Originally a coastal district around Palm Beach, Rooney’s district now stretches across Florida toward Tampa and is home to some of the state’s more conservative terrain. He and President Trump won the district in 2016 with about 62 percent.
A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rooney was on track to potentially become chairman of the once-powerful panel that controls the federal purse strings — but that would have required sticking around for another decade or so.
Last week, after the school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, Rooney issued a statement denouncing Congress for inaction on school violence. “We have failed in our duty to keep our kids safe,” he said in the statement Saturday.
Rooney did not voice support for new gun laws but did call for a large boost in money for school security and increased funding to community health centers to specifically deal with mental health issues.