Frelinghuysen Will Not Seek Re-Election

By on January 29, 2018
Rodney Frelinghuysen

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, speaking to a Verona High School class last March.

Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), who represents Verona in Congress, announced this morning that he is retiring at the end of his current term. The decision comes as Frelinghuysen seemed likely to face his first heavily contested election in his more than two decades in Congress. Frelinghuysen, who was first elected to Congress in 1995, is now chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the most senior positions in Congress. Verona was gerrymandered into the 11th congressional district after a redistricting in 2012.

“In my remaining year as chairman, I am determined to finish the FY18 bills and pass our FY19 bills through regular order,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “Every member, Republican and Democrat, will continue to have ample opportunity to directly impact the Congressional power of the purse and decide the best and highest use of limited taxpayer money. This will require — and I will happily devote — all my energies to this task.”

Just last week, Frelinghuysen was the subject of a profile in The Wall Street Journal, which cited his race as a barometer of the opposition that Republicans will face in the mid-term elections in November. Frelinghuysen, once viewed as a moderate, has come under increasing fire from constituents, who have been angered by his support for President Donald Trump, his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and his failure to hold a Town Hall meeting, among other issues. It has been almost four-and-a-half years since Frelinghuysen has held such a gathering and he has even stopped holding telephone town halls.

Frelinghuysen was also facing a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics that he had violated House ethics rules by targeting a local activist in a letter to a board member of the bank at which she worked. Saily Avelenda is a member of NJ11th For Change, a group formed in the wake of the 2016 presidential election that has been challenging what they say is Frelinghuysen’s lack of attention to all constituents in the district. On January 20, a Women’s March drew 15,000 people to Morristown, where Frelinghuysen has his district office; there has also been a steady stream of regular protesters at his Morristown office on Fridays and his Wayne office on Wednesdays.

The 11th Congressional district has drawn a host of challengers for the November election. Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, was the first to announce on the Democratic side last spring. “While Rep. Frelinghuysen and I did not agree on many issues,”Sherrill said via Twitter this morning, “as a fellow veteran I deeply respect his service to our country and to this community. From serving in Vietnam, to the NJ legislature, to the U.S. House, Rep. Frelinghuysen dedicated himself to protecting this country.”

John Bartlett, the Passaic County freeholder who abandoned a Democratic primary run against Frelinghuysen in December, said this via Twitter. “Today’s news is proof that #PeoplePower is still the essential force in politics. Everyone who ever showed up for Fridays or Wednesdays w/o #Frelinghuysen, or to last year’s @nj11forchange #TownHall forums, can take credit for the change that’s coming to #NJ11.” There is no statement yet from Tamara Harris, a Claridge House resident who is also seeking the Democratic nod. Martin Hewitt, who recently moved to Morris County from East Brunswick, has filed as a GOP challenger.

This was the statement Frelinghuysen released today:

“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “Public service is an incredible way to turn your convictions into something that serves the greater good and to do it alongside people from every walk of life and background. That has certainly been my experience here in this House, and during my Army service in Vietnam. I thank my friends and colleagues with whom I have served. My years in public service have allowed me to represent my home county of Morris for over 40 years, and also Essex, Passaic, Sussex Counties, and earlier on, Somerset! That would not have been possible without the love and support of my wife, Virginia, our two girls and my late father and mentor, Peter. The unsung heroes of my time in Congress are my staff, both in Morristown and Washington, who tend every day to the needs of 730,000 constituents!”

“During my time serving here there have been times of great tragedy including the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy on my home state. In my role on the House Appropriations Committee, I made sure that New Jersey’s needs were met in both the immediate aftermath as well as over time in the wake of these events. I have proudly been able to secure key federal investments for New Jersey to strengthen our economy, our institutions of higher education, our hospitals and public transportation systems, to preserve open space and protect the environment and to better serve our veterans and our fellow citizens with mental illness and disabilities.

“As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, this past year I have had a singular focus on “getting our work done”. We completed 12 appropriations bill left over from 2017, we passed all 2018 bills in record time through regular order, and three Disaster Supplementals Appropriations bills, historic in scope, and the expediency with which we acted to help our fellow citizens. In my remaining year as chairman, I am determined to finish the FY18 bills and pass our FY19 bills through regular order. Every member, Republican and Democrat, will continue to have ample opportunity to directly impact the Congressional power of the purse and decide the best and highest use of limited taxpayer money. This will require — and I will happily devote — all my energies to this task.

“Throughout my service in this House, my deepest devotion has been to supporting our Armed Forces, all volunteers, and their families, here and abroad, and those warfighters who have returned home with injuries and who depend on a functioning veterans’ health care system. To those of you I have met while you served us overseas and to those of you that I have sat by your bedside, I hope and trust I have served you well.

“I have worked in a bipartisan manner, not just in times of crisis but always, because I believe it best serves my constituents, my state and our country. My father reminded me often that we are temporary stewards of the public trust. I have sincerely endeavored to earn that trust every day and I thank my constituents and my home state of New Jersey for the honor to serve and I will continue to do so to the best of my abilities through the end of my term.”

You can read more about Frelinghuysen’s record on GovTrack.

 
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