Ehlers, of Michigan, says he will not seek re-election to US House seat

By Ken Thomas, AP
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mich. Republican Ehlers will not seek re-election

WASHINGTON — Rep. Vernon Ehlers, a moderate Republican from Michigan who sought protections for the Great Lakes and funding for math and science education, said Wednesday he won’t seek re-election to Congress.

Ehlers, 76, who faced a challenge in the Republican primary, was announcing his retirement at a news conference later Wednesday at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in Grand Rapids, Mich. Most of his district was once represented by President Gerald R. Ford.

“Each of us should recognize that the world doesn’t depend just on us and I’ve been there 16 years now and that’s more than enough time for most people and I’ve accomplished a great deal,” Ehlers said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just felt this was a good time to go.”

Ehlers decided not to seek re-election a day after state Rep. Justin Amash, a conservative Republican, said he would run for the 3rd District congressional seat. Announcing his candidacy, Amash accused the Obama administration and Congress of “spending our money and our children’s money to bail out failing companies and reward irresponsibility.”

Asked whether the primary challenge factored into his decision, Ehlers said, “Absolutely not. I never worried about primary challenges, never had a problem once I got elected. The people saw what I could do.”

The nine-term congressman has bucked his party on some issues, supporting the $700 million bailout bill of the nation’s financial industry in late 2008 and legislation allowing prescription drug imports from Canada in 2003, which the Bush administration opposed. Ehlers also voted against a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

Ehlers has held the seat in the solidly Republican district since winning a special election in December 1993 after Rep. Paul Henry died. He previously served in the state House and Senate, where he held leadership positions, and as a Kent County commissioner. He taught physics at Calvin College from 1966-83.

Ehlers was the first research physicist to serve in Congress and has pushed for more funding to clean up pollution in the Great Lakes and improve math and science education in K-12 education.

He was chosen to lead the House Administration Committee in February 2006 after Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, was pressured to step aside temporarily because he was accused of accepting gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney eventually was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and acknowledged taking bribes from Abramoff.

Ehlers helped shape ethics legislation and was praised by members of both parties for his handling of the committee, which he departed after the 2008 election.

Ehlers said his wife, Johanna, has dealt with recent health problems but it did not play a factor in his decision to retire.

The Republican field is expected to grow beyond Amash, a Grand Rapids lawyer in his first term. Other potential candidates include state Sens. Mark Jansen and Bill Hardiman and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who has long been considered likely to run if Ehlers stepped down. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, however, chose Land as his running mate in his campaign for governor, complicating a Land run for Congress.

The Michigan gubernatorial primary is August 3.

Associated Press Writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing, Mich., and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.

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