McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Veteran Rep. Jim Moran, a pugnacious Democrat who made headlines as an early, outspoken opponent of the Iraq War and for saying during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that he might like to punch Bill Clinton in the nose, announced Wednesday that he will retire from Congress after 12 terms representing northern Virginia.
The 68-year-old former mayor of Alexandria, Va. was first elected in 1990. He has been a staunch supporter of federal civilian employees who have a heavy presence in his district.
"It's time to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next challenge," he said in a statement.
Moran ran for Alexandria City Council in 1979, later becoming mayor until he successfully ran for Congress in 1990.
Several House Democrats are retiring. Moran's district in Washington's suburbs is heavily Democratic, however, and considered safe for the party.
David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, said there is a "less than zero" chance that the district will elect a Republican in November. He predicted a laundry list of local Democratic officeholders will seek the seat, and named Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette — who once contemplated a primary run against Moran — and Alexandria state Sen. Adam Ebbin as possible contenders.
Moran was in line to be the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation after Republican Frank Wolf announced last month that he would be retiring after 17 terms.
In a statement Wednesday, Wolf praised his colleague from across the aisle.
"Jim is more than a colleague in the House. He is a friend," Wolf said. "He has been a true partner in working for Northern Virginia and will be missed."
Moran is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee and a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Moran said he chose a role as an appropriator in Congress and has witnessed changes in the process over the years.
"I've seen the appropriations process at its height, and more recently its nadir," he said. "When the appropriations process is working, the government functions on behalf of the people, the economy is stronger, and the country overall becomes more inclusive, egalitarian and productive."
Moran co-founded the New Democrats in 1996 and it is now one of the largest caucuses in the House. Through the group he has been active on issues promoting a "center-left vision" for the economy.
Moran was a vocal opponent of the Iraq War.
In the run-up to the war, Moran told a community forum that "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."
Moran apologized amid complaints of anti-Semitism, and the comments helped prompt a primary challenge in 2004 from lawyer Andrew Rosenberg. Moran won the primary with 59 percent of the vote, and subsequently never faced serious opposition.
In 1998, he was strongly critical of Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but ultimately voted against impeachment. In venting his anger after Clinton's admission, Moran said he told Hillary Clinton that if she had been his sister, he would have punched her husband in the nose.
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Original headline: Veteran Virginia Democratic Rep. Moran to retire
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