WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) says that he will not seek another term in 2020 and will retire from politics, according to an announcement from his office on Monday.
"At the end of this term, I will have devoted 30 years to the important calling of public service; of helping bring people together to solve problems and leave our communities, our beautiful state and our great nation better off for the next generation," Walden said in a video statement.
Rep. Walden has led Oregon's 2nd Congressional District since 1999 after serving for almost a decade in the state legislature. The 2nd District is easily Oregon's largest by landmass, covering most of the eastern, central, and southern parts of the state.
"Rural Oregon values run deeply in my veins. My ancestors arrived here in 1845 and I grew up on a cherry orchard in The Dalles with parents who survived the Great Depression. They taught me the true meaning of community; the importance of giving back; and the value of hard work. That’s why I’ve given it my all for the people and the way of life we so enjoy in Oregon," Walden said.
Until Democrats retook the House in 2018, Walden chaired the prominent House Energy and Commerce Committee. He remains the top Republican on that committee.
"Based on recent polling, strong fundraising, and the backing of my wife and family, I am confident I could earn the support of 2nd District voters for another term. I’m also optimistic 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," Walden continued. “But I also know that for me, the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities."
Walden, a Republican, has won handily in each of his races for the 2nd District seat since 1998 — making this District one of the few reliably "red" regions for the state's Congressional delegation over the past decade.
“So, I will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, nor election to any other office, but instead I will close the public service chapter of my life, thankful for the friends I’ve made and the successful work we’ve done together," Walden concluded. “It’s been an honor and privilege to represent the people of Oregon’s 2nd District in the U.S. House. Know that I will continue to work hard on their behalf as long as I’m in office. Thank you.”
In 2018, Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner mounted the most successful run against Rep. Walden to date. McLeod-Skinner recently announced her campaign for Oregon Secretary of State in 2020, but Walden's announcement has aroused curiosity that she might revisit the quest for Representative.
"Representative Walden's decision to retire shows the power of our efforts to flip the House and establish accountability in Washington DC," McLeod-Skinner said in a brief statement. "Since his announcement, I've received a lot of calls and I am in the process of returning them. I remain committed to protecting our democracy, building stronger communities, and safeguarding our environment."
At present, only Raz Mason and John Holm — both Democrats — have announced their bids for the 2nd District seat. It's unclear at this time who else may try to claim the spot in 2020, particularly following Walden's announcement.
“We recognize and thank Greg for his exemplary record of public service to his district, our state, and our nation. He and his family have sacrificed much over the years and we wish them all the best after decades of dedication to the people of Oregon,” said Bill Currier, Oregon GOP Chairman.
Currier said that the party was confident that it would have a strong candidate to sweep the 2nd District again, in addition to Republicans taking back the House in 2020 from the "unaccomplished and impeachment-obsessed Democrats.” In an interview with NewsWatch 12, Walden did not identify anyone that he saw as likely to succeed him in representing Oregon's 2nd District.
"I have no plans at this time to endorse anybody, but I wanted to make sure that my announcement gave everybody a fair opportunity to seriously evaluate whether or not they're the right fit and to put together a positive and effective campaign," Walden said.
Walden and his wife Mylene have been married for more than 36 years and live in Hood River. Before pursuing politics, Walden owned and managed several radio stations in the area. He has not yet indicated what other ventures he has in mind once he retires from political life.
"I've really enjoyed the work, still do, but for my wife and I . . . it's time," Walden told NewsWatch 12. "This is our time to reflect on those days and weeks months and years and things missed but also to be so thankful. The people we've gotten to know and the people we've gotten to work with and the things we've gotten done."