Francis Rooney, who represents southwest Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives, has announced his retirement.
His surprise decision comes a day after saying he would consider voting to impeach President Donald Trump and after accusing the White House of playing Etch A Sketch games with the truth in its denials regarding the Ukraine scandal.
He made his announcement on Fox News Saturday.
“People need to realize … this is public service, not public life,” he said, noting that he had “gotten all the major projects underway” that he had planned to accomplish.
Collier County Democratic Party Chair Annisa Karim said Rooney’s decision not to run for re-election “is probably the best thing for southwest Florida.”
She continued: ” This is the person who voted against the Equality Act; he holds a lifetime score of a mere 10 percent from the League of Conservation Voters; he didn’t even bother to show up for a vote on the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 or the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act. For a man who didn’t even bother to attend a candidate forum or speak to his constituents during the last election, his leaving the political stage is good news.”
Had Rooney decided to run again in Congressional District 19, it would have been his third term in office had he won.
So far, one Democrat, Cindy Banyai of Fort Myers, has announced her intention to run for the District 19 seat. And her comments regarding Rooney’s decision echoed those of Karim:
“Francis Rooney was no friend to the people or the environment of Southwest Florida, so his departure is great news. I am ready to take our Democratic values to the people of Southwest Florida and be the leader we deserve. Someone who will connect and serve. Someone who cares about our water, our kids, and our community.”
Rooney faced Naples Democrat David Holden during his 2018 re-election run. When asked about Rooney’s announcement, Holden said:
“I’m being urged by many supporters to enter the campaign. I’m exploring the race and will make an announcement in the near future.”
Rooney told the Washington Post that he’d been thinking a lot about Watergate and how before all the facts were known critics of the investigation called it a “witch hunt” against President Richard Nixon. He said he doesn’t think Trump’s actions are as bad, but that Congress needs to get all the facts.
The Post reported that Rooney acknowledged that merely suggesting that Trump could be guilty of something that would require impeaching him invites the president’s wrath. Few Republicans in Congress have come even close to saying that.
“What’s he going to do to me? I mean, he can say bad things, but it’s just what it is,” Rooney said, when asked if he was worried about Trump’s reaction. “There’s a lot of people around who are seriously concerned about being criticized by the president. Seriously. I just want to call them as I see it.”