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Slamming ‘career politicians,’ Hollingsworth will not run again

Indiana Republican who pledged to serve only four terms is leaving after three

Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, left, here with Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff in 2019, leaves behind a safe Republican seat.
Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, left, here with Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff in 2019, leaves behind a safe Republican seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Indiana Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who pledged to limit his time in Congress to four terms, announced Wednesday that he would leave at the end of 2022, one term earlier than promised. 

“I ran for Congress to return this government to the people from the career politicians who had broken it, and I will be damned if I become one in the process,” Hollingsworth wrote, announcing his decision in an Indianapolis Star op-ed.

Hollingsworth, 38, is the 12th Republican to announce plans to leave the House after this term. By comparison, 26 House Democrats have so far announced their retirement or plans to run for other offices this cycle.

The GOP needs a net gain of five seats to win back the House, and Hollingsworth’s 9th District in southeast Indiana remains a Republican stronghold after redistricting, so his departure is unlikely to affect the partisan balance. But candidates have to move fast; to run in the May 3 primary, the ballot filing deadline is Feb. 4.

Hollingsworth’s redrawn district would have voted for President Donald Trump by 28 points in 2020, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, which rates the 9th District race Solid Republican

A business-minded Republican and member of the Financial Services Committee, Hollingsworth has focused on financial deregulation during his time in Congress, drawing upon his real estate roots to inform his work.

In early 2020, as the nation was dealing with the rising COVID-19 pandemic, he suggested in a radio interview that letting more Americans die from the coronavirus was the “lesser of two evils” compared with shutting down the U.S. economy.

His comments at the time reflected a growing desire among some Republicans — including Trump — to begin to ease the guidelines that shuttered businesses and kept workers at home.

Hollingsworth has said he makes 500 randomized constituent phone calls each week, which takes 11 to 12 hours. He referenced those calls in his retirement announcement, saying he often hears a “palpable anger” at the dysfunctional workings of Washington. 

“The problem of politicians using their office to catapult themselves to another office, to a Committee assignment, or to a high-paying lobbying job is the misaligned incentive that tears at the most fundamental promise of democracy: elected officials represent electorates,” he wrote. “In other words, you elect me, and I will represent your interests.”

He continued, saying that he has used his time in Congress to “battle Washington itself” and has been successful because he was an outsider. He added that he would continue to fight for his constituents in “new and better ways” outside Congress. 

With assets worth about $58.5 million, according to a 2020 CQ Roll Call analysis, Hollingsworth is one of the richest members of Congress. He got his bachelor’s degree in real estate, finance and legal studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown. His fortune came from Hollingsworth Capital Partners, an industrial real estate business based in Clinton, Tenn., started by his father. Hollingsworth also started an aluminum remanufacturing operation in Indiana.

He had been living in Indiana for a short while when he threw his hat into the 2016 race for the seat Republican Todd Young vacated for an ultimately successful Senate run. The Tennessee native was a little-known candidate in his new hometown of Jeffersonville just weeks before the 2016 primary, having moved to the state the previous September and entering the race in October. Hollingsworth funded most of his campaign himself, eliciting widespread attacks from Republicans and Democrats, who accused him of trying to buy the seat.

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