MORRISTOWN -- Longtime U.S. Representative and Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) has announced that he will not seek re-election this year, according to multiple media reports. Facing a spirited challenge in the upcoming general election, Rep. Frelinghuysen's announcement comes during a tumultuous time for the New Jersey Republican Party, with President Trump's low approval numbers and the passage of the federal tax reform bill seen by some political observers as impediments to their re-election chances in 2018.
"Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service," said Rep. Frelinghuysen in his retirement statement. " Public service is an incredible way to turn your convictions into something that serves the greater good and to do it alongside people from every walk of life and background. That has certainly been my experience here in this House, and during my Army service in Vietnam. I thank my friends and colleagues with whom I have served."
First elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, Rep. Frelinghuysen is the scion of a political family whose service in politics stretches back to the Revolutionary War. He has faced little opposition in his previous re-election campaigns, once even being satirically opposed by a ficus tree in his 2000 re-election campaign as a statement of protest by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.
Rep. Frelinghuysen faced a far more difficult challenge in this year's campaign as early opposition led by the grassroots progressive group NJ 11th for Change focused on his support for the Trump agenda and refusal to hold town hall meetings with constituents. Had he chosen to seek re-election he would have faced a well-funded Democratic field led by candidate Mikie Sherill, a former Navy helicopter pilot who has been listed on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" list of targeted races.
Republican party committees in the 11th District, which is comprised of parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset counties, will now be working to choose a candidate to compete in the general election against the Democratic nominee in an effort to retain the seat.
Rep. Frelinghuysen is the second veteran GOP lawmaker in the state to announce his retirement, with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) first saying he would not run for re-election last November.