Updated: 3:59 p.m.
Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) announced Saturday morning at a Gwinnett County GOP breakfast that he will not seek another term in November.
His departure creates a second open-seat race in a staunchly Republican district in Georgia this cycle. Rep. Nathan Deal’s (R) bid for governor is also opening up his northwestern 9th district seat. The GOP is expected to have little trouble holding both.
According to GOP strategists, the likely early frontrunners in the suburban Atlanta 7th district race are state Sen. Don Balfour, who is chairman of the Rules Committee, and state Sen. David Shafer. Shafer, a former executive director of the Georgia GOP, is a prolific fundraiser and he has run statewide before.
Other state legislators being mentioned as possible GOP contenders are state Reps. Clay Cox, Tom Rice, Donna Sheldon and Mike Coan. Cox is probably the most likely to run, and he is wealthy and can self-fund a bid.
Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, Gwinnett County GOP Chairman Chuck Efstration, who is a Gwinnett assistant district attorney, and Sandy Springs City Councilman Doug MacGinnitie, who is currently running for secretary of state, are also likely to look at the race.
Linder was first elected to Congress in 1992, and his highest profile re-election race in the past decade came in 2002, when he defeated then-Rep. Bob Barr in a GOP primary that was the result of redistricting.
He served one term as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 1998 cycle. But after Republicans lost ground that year he was ousted as chairman.
Linder becomes the 20th House Republican to announce plans to leave at the end of this Congress. Fourteen House Democrats are retiring or running for other office.
John McArdle contributed to this report.