A Georgia Republican congressman who barely escaped defeat last year in a suburban Atlanta seat once considered safe for GOP candidates said Thursday he won't seek re-election in 2020.
Rep. Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville said he plans to serve the remainder of his two-year term, but decided to announce his exit as early as possible "to ensure that quality conservative candidates have time to prepare for a vigorous campaign in 2020."
"I have realized over this past year of change_both in politics and in my family_that the time has come for me to pass the baton and move to the next chapter," Woodall said in a statement.
Woodall's 7th District was one of two Georgia congressional seats targeted in the 2018 midterms by Democrats, who wagered that shifting demographics and voters disaffected with President Donald Trump offered a chance to pick up House seats long dominated by the GOP.
Woodall won a fifth term by fewer than 450 votes in a tight race with a Democratic newcomer, college professor Carolyn Bourdeaux. The congressman had won each of his previous campaigns with no less than 60 percent of the vote.
Woodall made no mention of his narrow re-election in his retirement announcement. But Democrats were already preparing to challenge him again after successfully flipping the neighboring 6th District, where gun control activist Lucy McBath defeated Republican Rep. Karen Handel for the seat once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Bourdeaux had planned to seek a rematch with Woodall and will run for his open seat in 2020, said Jake Best, the Democrat's campaign spokesman. A professor of public management and policy at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Bourdeaux once worked at the state Capitol as director of Georgia's Senate Budget and Evaluation Office.
"We can confirm that she will be running again," Best said, adding that Bourdeaux planned a formal announcement Tuesday.
Woodall told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview Thursday that fellow Republicans had not pressured him to step aside. He had faced criticism for refraining from airing attack ads last year against Bourdeaux, who ended up outpacing Woodall in overall fundraising. He told the newspaper he was concerned about keeping control of his message in 2020, when outside groups are expected to spend heavily on the race.
"There are going to be a lot of cooks in the kitchen in here," Woodall said. "And even as adamant as I am about the way I want to run the show, it would have been harder to keep control over a message as outside groups come in on both sides."