WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland said Wednesday he will not seek another term in November, becoming the latest in a string of Republican departures, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who announced his retirement on the same day.
"Eight years takes its toll on you. When you feel like a stranger in your hometown, it's time to say, 'There's got to be an exit strategy at some point,' " Ross told the Tampa Bay Times, noting he planned on serving 10 years, or five terms.
Ross, 58, said he wants to spend more time at home, with two sons getting married within the year. He cited the grind of travel to and from Washington and having to constantly raise money as well as bitter partisanship.
"My wife and I decided this is a good time. I never wanted to do it for a career. I'm looking forward to getting back to practicing law," he said, and perhaps teach political science at the college level.
A former state House member who has climbed to deputy majority whip, Ross said he was telling staff about his decision and looked up at Fox News to see Ryan had decided to step down.
"I thought today was going to be a slow news day!"
The 15th Congressional District covers Polk County and northern parts of Hillsborough County, including eastern suburbs of Tampa.
More than 40 House Republicans are retiring or seeking another office. Ross is the third Florida member, joining Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Tom Rooney of Okeechobee, both whom have expressed dissatisfaction with Washington.
He dismissed the idea retirement had anything to do with a possible Democratic wave — "Not at all." — though the open seat will now become a target, while setting off a scramble among Republican hopefuls, who remain the favorite.
Donald Trump won the district by 10 percentage points.
Ross like other Republicans have had to contend with the steady stream of White House controversies but also said that was not a factor in his decision.
"I wouldn't say I ignore it. I'm very cognizant of it," he recently told the Times of the turmoil. "But I also understand I have to take care of my constituency, and I'm not going to be bogged down trying to defend or explain things going on in the White House because I have no control over that. Do I accept the methods and manners? It's very difficult to. The results have been good in where we've been able to take the economy."