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Jim McDermott Announces Retirement

McDermott has served since 1989. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McDermott has served since 1989. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fourteen-term Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., announced Monday he’ll retire from Congress at the end of this session.  

First elected to Congress in 1988, the 79-year-old has been a liberal leader in the House for 26 years, championing single payer health insurance and voting against the Iraq War.  

“The first in his family to attend college, Jim fought to ensure the ladders of opportunity were available to all Americans. Whether in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps during the Vietnam War, as Foreign Service medical officer, and as a champion of single payer health care from his earliest days in the Congress, Jim made it his life’s work to ensure quality health care is available to every American, not just the privileged few,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday praising McDermott, a psychiatrist. 

President Barack Obama echoed Pelosi’s praise Monday. “Across America, you’ll find families that are better off because Jim McDermott was fighting for them,” he said in a statement.

McDermott is also known for his legal skirmish with former Speaker John A. Boehner, who sued him in 1998 for leaking a recording of a 1996 phone call between the Ohio Republican and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.  

A Florida couple intercepted the call through Boehner’s cellphone and forwarded the recording to McDermott, who then passed it to The New York Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Boehner argued his privacy had been violated, and McDermott was ordered to pay him more than $1 million in legal fees. In December, McDermott’s office confirmed to Roll Call those expenses had been paid off in full.  

McDermott won his last general election with 80 percent of the vote, but he had already attracted one primary challenger in his safe Democratic 7th District before the holiday recess. State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw announced his candidacy in early December, promising to be the “region’s next progressive leader.”
The Democratic field in this Seattle-based district is expected to grow with McDermott out. Thanks to Washington’s top-two primary system, the general election could pit two Democrats against each other.  Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain each received just 18 percent of the vote in this district in the most recent presidential elections. The open seat is not at risk of a Republican takeover and The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating remains Safe Democrat .  

Nathan Gonzales contributed to this report.
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