Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday and has two children, said in a statement Thursday that his decision was based on concerns about the toll the job was taking on his young family, as well as the state of the Republican Party.
“Since entering politics, I have always said that I will do this job for as long as the voters will have me and it still works for my family,” Gonzalez said, before conceding that it had become “clear that the best path for our family is not to seek reelection next fall.”
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” Gonzalez added.
In an interview with the New York Times, Gonzalez went into more detail about how those concerns intersected, describing the difficulty of dividing his time between Ohio and Washington, and noting an “eye-opening” moment with his family this year at the Cleveland airport, where they needed additional security after the impeachment brought a new wave of threats.
“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” Gonzalez told the newspaper.
Gonzalez also told the Times that he saw Trump as “a cancer for the country” and that he would devote most of his political energy to ensuring Trump would never be president again.
In his statement Thursday, Gonzalez only obliquely referred to the implications of retiring as one of the few anti-Trump Republicans remaining in Congress.
“Given the political realities of the day, I know this news will come as a disappointment to those who have been involved in our efforts,” Gonzalez said. “You have given me and my family tremendous strength and courage in the face of much adversity these past few months and years. Please know that every word has meant the world to me and given me hope that the chaotic political environment that currently infects our country will only be temporary.”
Gonzalez was elected to represent Ohio’s 16th Congressional District in 2018 and won reelection last year. Before the impeachment vote, he was considered to have a bright future in the Republican Party. He was a standout football player at Ohio State University and was then drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. When injuries cut his sports career short, he headed to Stanford University to get a master’s in business administration and then worked at a start-up called Chalk Schools.
His Cuban American heritage was also attractive to the GOP at a time when it was trying to become more diverse and combat accusations that the party was promoting racist and anti-immigrant policies under Trump.
Gonzalez’s departure comes as Ohio is set to lose a congressional district following the 2020 Census. It remains unclear whether the 16th District will be folded into more conservative districts surrounding it or remain somewhat close to its current form.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.