The Republican who voted to impeach Trump will not seek re-election

WASHINGTON — Representative John Katko of New York, a centrist Republican who broke with his party last year to vote to impeach former President Donald J. Trump, announced Friday that he will not run again.

Mr. Katko was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Mr. Trump and is the third member of that group to announce his retirement.

In a statement that came almost exactly a year after that vote, Mr Katko said he decided to quit in order to “enjoy my family and my life in a more complete and present way”. He added that the loss of his own parents and his wife’s parents over the past three years “has given me a perspective that has changed my life”.

“My conscience, my principles, and my commitment to doing the right thing have guided every decision I’ve made as a member of Congress, and they guide my decision today,” he said.

Mr. Katko, a former federal prosecutor, was increasingly marginalized by conservatives at home and among House Republicans on Capitol Hill, who demanded total loyalty to Mr. Trump, downplayed the seriousness of the 6 January on Capitol Hill and avoided working with President Biden. Those who deviated from this path found themselves attracting primary challengers, being pushed away from the party, or both.

Mr. Katko’s sins in the eyes of his own party included supporting the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot and backing a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan championed by Mr. Biden. He had already drawn three main challengers, and if he survived that, he faced the likelihood of a brutal election campaign.

New York Democrats, who have tried and failed for years to oust him from the Syracuse-based seat, are now considering new congressional lines that could make the district virtually unwinnable for Republicans, even in a year that the officials from both parties believe they favor the GOP.

Democrats and Mr. Trump found rare common ground in applauding Mr. Katko’s decision.

“Good news, another bites the dust,” Mr. Trump, who had offered to help those vying to unseat Mr. Katko in a primary, said in a statement.

Abel Iraola, spokesman for the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said the retreat highlighted how the Republican Party’s rightward drift has made it “toxic to so-called moderates in the GOP”.

Mr. Katko was among a select group of lawmakers who appealed to voters outside his own party. When Mr. Biden won his 2020 New York Central District by 9 points in 2020, Mr. Katko won by 10.

But the same centrist credentials that kept Mr Katko clinging to his seat have made him a target in conservative circles. After Republican leaders tasked him with working with Democrats on a proposal to create an independent commission on Jan. 6, they later abandoned the effort to protect Mr. Trump and the party from scrutiny. further, urging lawmakers to oppose Mr. Katko’s plan. negotiated.

When Democrats formed their own select committee to investigate the riot anyway, Mr. Katko infuriated far-right members by voting in October to hold Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for blocking their investigation .

And Mr. Katko was one of 13 House Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill in November, leading some in his party to call him and other GOP supporters of the legislation, of “traitors” and to demand that Mr. Katko be stripped of his leadership role on the Homeland Security Committee. He was in line to become panel chairman if Republicans took control of the House.

The anger of his right flank followed Mr. Katko home. The Conservative Party, a minor party in New York that backs Republicans in most races, denounced him last April and officially withdrew its support for his re-election bid after voting for a Democratic bill extending the protection of gay and transgender rights.

Bernard Ment, the party chairman in Onondaga County, home to Syracuse, said that stance was the last straw. In an interview, he called Mr. Katko a “democrat”, although he retained the support of his local organization of the Republican Party.

“He was the only guy who tried to work both sides of the aisle,” Mr Ment said. “The problem is he’s managed to alienate a lot of conservative voters and tick off a lot of Republicans, and I don’t think he can catch up with Democratic voters.”

Democrats who control the New York state government in Albany are expected to try to fill the district with new Democratic voters as they redraw the state’s congressional districts in the coming weeks. , giving their party a clear advantage in November. Three Democrats, including two veterans, have already entered the race.

With Mr. Katko and his cross call out of the way, Democrats will likely be less fearful of a Republican winning his district, giving them more leeway to further expand their majority by redrawing the map. New lines could net Democrats up to four new seats in the House and strip Republicans of the five they currently hold. (New York is expected to lose a congressional seat this year after a national reallocation.)

Mr. Katko, for his part, maintained that he was focused on supporting his party’s political priorities, particularly attacking Mr. Biden’s immigration policies, and working to get results. for his district. In a statement last year, he made it clear how dangerous he thought the former president’s conduct was in the run-up to Jan. 6.

“Letting the President of the United States instigate this inconsequential attack is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said. “For this reason, I cannot sit idly by.”

Nicholas Fandos reported from New York.

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