Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a progressive Democrat who has represented Portland, Oregon, since 1996, announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of his term.
Blumenauer shared his plans with Willamette Week, telling the outlet: “I’m not certain that two more years in Congress in this climate is the best way to deal with things I care about.”
He plans to announce the decision more widely later on Monday, the outlet reported.
“I’m leaving Congress because I want to be able to be more present in my community,” he continued. “And if somebody thinks I have something to offer, I’m willing to try and help.”
The departure of Blumenauer, whose seniority has earned him a spot on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is likely to prompt a competitive Democratic primary to succeed him in Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District. The state’s Democratic primaries for the 2024 election, in which only registered Democrats can participate, are due to occur on May 21, 2024.
In 2020, President Joe Biden received nearly three-quarters of the vote in Blumenauer’s seat, which stretches from the eastern half of Portland out into the rural, central part of the state.
The bespectacled Blumenauer is known for distinctive attire that reflects the quirkiness of his home city: He virtually always sports a bowtie and a neon-colored bicycle pin. Like many Portlanders, Blumenauer is an avid biker, which is his preferred method for commuting to the U.S. Capitol from his part-time home in Washington. As the founder of the bipartisan Congressional Bike Caucus, he has promoted federal policies that would encourage biking and e-biking.
Blumenauer currently also serves as ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade. He chaired the trade-focused panel when Congress passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 2019, an accord that revised NAFTA to include stronger protections for workers, the environment, and prescription drug patients.
Reflecting back on his years in office, Blumenauer said his legislative goals may have been too broad.
“If I had it to do over again, I would be involved with fewer things and be more intent in terms of following through,” he told Willamette Week. “But I’m not going apologize for it because somebody has to do what I do.”