On the heels of a narrow re-election victory last November, and with the likelihood of a very strong challenge from Democrats in 2020, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) announced Thursday that he would retire from Congress after his current term expires, after serving five terms in the U.S. House.
"You know, when you have a close election like I did, you start thinking," Woodall told me in the House Speaker's Lobby, soon after his announcement. "A decade service is a lot of time, and I'm just proud of what I've gotten done in that time."
"I have realized over this past year of change—both in politics and in my family—that the time has come for me to pass the baton and move to the next chapter," the 48 year old Woodall said in a statement issued by his campaign.
Woodall had quietly given indications of his decision since a recount confirmed his slim victory in 2018, raising little money in the aftermath of his close win over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux.
Woodall is the third member of the House to announce retirement for the 2020 election cycle, as he said he wanted to do this early to allow others to run for his seat in Congress.
"I make this announcement as early as possible to ensure that quality conservative candidates have time to prepare for a vigorous campaign in 2020," Woodall said.
Woodall said part of the reason he decided to leave was the recent death of his father, and the realization that working on Capitol Hill had cost him time with his dad.
"I don't want to make that mistake with other family members," Woodall added.
The Lawrenceville Republican barely survived a 2018 election surge for Democrats in suburban areas around the nation, a shift which swept Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) out, as Democrats picked up a net gain of 40 seats in the House, winning in areas once thought to be reliably Republican - in the GOP suburbs of Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Denver, and in southern California.
Woodall has been known as the chief sponsor in the U.S. House of the "FairTax" - a plan which would move the United States away from an income tax system, and instead bring in federal revenue through a consumption tax, paid at the point of sale.
Woodall admits it is unlikely he will be able to get a vote on that plan before his term expires in the first days of 2021.
"Yes, one day there will be a vote on the FairTax, it will be when a President demands it," Woodall said.
"It hurts my heart when someone says that Republicans did tax reform last year. No, Republicans did tax cuts," the Georgia Republican said.
The 48 year-old Woodall worked in Congress before being elected to the House, as he was a staffer for ex-Rep. John Linder (R-GA), who retired before the 2010 election.
"Believe it, I'm sorry to see you go," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) told Woodall just off the House floor, soon after news of his decision was made public.
"I'm hoping you're going to moderate," McGovern said, as the two adversaries on the House Rules Committee laughed and shook hands.