Walden is the 22nd House Republican to retire, resign or seek another office since the 116th Congress convened in January. Seven Democrats have retired or resigned in that time.
In a statement to supporters, Walden said he was confident he could win reelection and “that a path exists for Republicans to recapture a majority in the House, and that I could return for two more years as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”
“But I also know that for me, the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities,” he added, saying he would “close the public service chapter of my life” and not run for any other office.
Walden, 62, could have served as the committee’s top Republican through 2022 under party rules, but is opting instead to relinquish a chance to again wield one of Capitol Hill’s most powerful gavels — with jurisdiction ranging across most of American industry and a significant chunk of the federal government. Politico first reported his retirement announcement.
The top Republicans on three other House committees have also announced their retirements this year, though Walden is the only one who wasn’t immediately facing a term limit.
A 40-year veteran of GOP politics in Oregon, Walden is the only Republican representing the state in Congress. He is a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, presiding over GOP gains in 2014 and smaller-than-anticipated losses in 2016.
Walden has shown occasional discomfort with some of President Trump’s policies — voting with Democrats this year to cancel Trump’s border emergency declaration and to end the government shutdown that stretched into January — but he has strongly defended Trump amid the pending impeachment probe.
His eastern Oregon district is heavily Republican, voting for Trump by 19 points in 2016.