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Veteran Mississippi lawmaker to retire

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Chip Pickering stunned the Mississippi political establishment Thursday with an announcement that he will retire from Congress in 2008 after serving out his term.

“Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election in 2008,” said Pickering. “Serving the Third District of Mississippi over the last 11 years has been a great honor. It has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have come to know well the people and communities of our generous state.”

In his lengthy statement, Pickering, 44, does not explicitly say why he is retiring other than to refer to time he wants to spend with his five sons.

“ I have a window of opportunity to maximize my time, influence and participation in the lives of my five sons now ages 8 to 17. Time is the one element I can never recover or regain. Being a father is one of life's greatest callings.”

“I make this announcement with a full heart and abiding faith in both our country and great state. I look forward to working together to complete our mission and fulfill our promise.”

His father, former federal Judge Charles Pickering, said in an interview from Jackson that for his son “putting family first is the right decision.”

“He told me raising his boys is his greatest responsibility,” said the elder Pickering. “I agree.”

“Hopefully, he will be able to re-enter public life.”

In his statement, he said, “I am thankful to all who helped elect me to six terms in the House. First, to my family, Leisha and the boys, who worked hard in my campaigns and every day to make my congressional service possible. My parents inspired my service, set positive examples for me, and provided a good name and start. Our family has been blessed by the many friendships and experiences we have made along the way.”

Pickering was first elected in 1996.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring said just before the announcement, “It would be a huge loss for us. Chip Pickering’s been a great congressman.” Herring said he anticipated that the seat would remain Republican.

In a statement, Mississippi GOP Gov. Haley Barbour, said, “Chip Pickering has been an outstanding member of the U.S. House of Representatives and will be very hard to replace.”