WASHINGTON — Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, Calif., announced his retirement Tuesday, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.
The 66-year-old staunch conservative said he was prepared to be a homebody after years of traveling.
"We want to spend more time with the grandkids." Herger said in a telephone interview. "We just think it's time to begin spending more time with our family."
Herger and his wife have 11 grandchildren, and a 12th is on the way.
Herger's retirement after 13 terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, Calif., among others. LaMalfa starts as a presumptively strong candidate in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Yuba City to the Oregon border.
While acknowledging that "I'm sure there will be a number of candidates," Herger said LaMalfa "has my endorsement and full support." LaMalfa's upcoming campaign will be run by Herger's own consultant, Dave Gilliard.
"We're moving forward with the campaign," LaMalfa said by telephone Tuesday. "We're already in pretty good shape with the (district's) constituents already knowing me."
A native of tiny Rio Oso in Sutter County, where he still owns a house and ranchland, Herger first won election to a school board position before winning a state Assembly seat in 1980. In 1986, he won election to a House seat that he has held ever since, largely with relative ease.
In 2010, Herger beat his Democratic opponent by a comfortable 57-43 percent margin.
"It's the end of an era," said former Rep. John Doolittle, a Rocklin, Calif., Republican who first met Herger three decades ago. "Wally's been running for office every other year since 1980, and it's wearing, year after year, to do that. I think his life is about to get much better."
Herger has been a reliably conservative representative, racking up a lifetime voting score of 96 percent from the American Conservative Union, but has rarely made a big splash inside the Capitol. Although a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, he was passed over for the coveted committee chairmanship.
Still, the veteran lawmaker has had some successes, including his authorship of a bill last year to repeal a 3 percent withholding tax imposed on government contractors. The measure easily passed both House and Senate and was signed by President Barack Obama in November.
During the mid-1990s, Herger helped work on a welfare-reform law ultimately signed by President Bill Clinton. More parochially, he collaborated with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the successful "Quincy Library Group" effort to manage timber across 1.5 million acres on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests.
"I'm proud of the work I've done on a bipartisan basis," Herger said.
Herger and his wife, Pamela, currently reside in a home in Chico; he said no decision has yet been made where they will live once his retirement takes effect next January.
Herger had stockpiled $506,981 in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 30, and his name had not previously topped the inside-the-Beltway list of anticipated retirements. Unlike some other California lawmakers, he was not thrown into a more competitive district by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
Nonetheless, Gilliard revealed Tuesday, Herger began quietly informing his staff about his retirement intentions around Christmas. He becomes the fifth California House incumbent to announce a retirement at the end of the 112th Congress. Odds are, he won't be the last.
Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza of Atwater and Lynn Woolsey of San Rafael as well as Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly of Solvang have previously announced their retirements. Democratic Rep. Bob Filner of San Diego is stepping down to run for mayor.
Several other state lawmakers now are weighing their own futures in the light of the redistricting commission's work.
One of the state's most senior lawmakers, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, Calif., is currently considering a run in one of several newly designed Southern California districts, as well as the possibility, rumored by some, that the 77-year-old could retire after more than three decades in the House.
"He has for some time been reviewing (options)," Lewis's chief of staff Jim Specht said Tuesday, adding that Lewis is likely to make a decision "within the next two weeks."
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