Rep. John Peterson (R), a six-term Member from northern Pennsylvania, announced today that he is retiring from Congress. Peterson, 69, cited health problems at home as the reason he has decided to retire at the end of this term.
“Unfortunately, although still young at heart, a few chronic, non-threatening health issues have to be addressed at home, requiring me to devote more time to my family — time and presence which would not be possible if I sought re-election,” Peterson said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision, and there is never a perfect time to leave public service.”
Peterson easily won all of his general election campaigns with at least 60 percent of the vote. The district is considered safe for Republicans and no one but Peterson has filed for the seat with the Federal Elections Commission, though the state filing deadline is not until Feb. 12.
In the wake of Peterson’s surprising announcement, the most often-mentioned candidate for the seat is state Sen. Jake Corman (R), who represents the relatively populous Centre County in the southern part of the district.
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Corman said that while he is seriously considering a bid for the seat, personal concerns will drive his decision. Corman has three children age 5 and younger and the geographically large district would require a great deal of travel.
“I’m going to sit down with my family the next few days and try to come up with a decision by the end of the weekend,” Corman said.
Corman also said he had discussed a bid for the 5th district with his close ally, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who was Corman’s father’s chief of staff in the Pennsylvania Senate. Corman said the National Republican Congressional Committee has not called him directly yet.
Politically, Corman said he is not worried that redistricting in 2012 would eliminate the 5th district seat. Pennsylvania is looking at losing one Congressional seat that year, but Corman said it would be more likely the district would grow in a southern direction, which is closer to his current home and legislative district.
The 5th district is the largest in size and most rural district in Pennsylvania, sprawling across the central northern third of the state. The population center is in Centre County, home of the Pennsylvania State University main campus.
Pennsylvania Republican Northwest Caucus Chairman Ash Khare said that other than Corman, there is no consensus about anyone who might run for this seat with about six weeks left until the filing deadline.
“Jake may have aspirations on a statewide thing down the road, so he may not want to run at this time,” said Khare, who also added that he would support Corman if he were to run.
According to another Pennsylvania political operative though, the seat is Corman’s for the taking.
“It really is his seat if he wants it,” said the Republican operative.
Meanwhile back in Washington, NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) commended Peterson’s work on the Appropriations Committee and for his dedication to rural issues.
“I greatly respect John’s hard work as a member of our Republican Conference and on behalf of North Central Pennsylvania and wish him well in his retirement,” Cole said. “John has been especially effective in advancing real solutions for America’s energy crisis. His strong views and voice on this issue will be missed.”