BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, the longest-serving member of Alabama's House delegation, said Monday he will not seek re-election in 2014 after his current term, a decision that could set off a free-for-all in a heavily GOP district.
The 6th District congressman said he is too worried about problems like the national debt to resign before his term ends, yet he also is frustrated by the climate in Washington.
"I am very concerned about this country," Bachus said in an interview with The Associated Press. "There's too much politics and not enough policy."
Bachus, a former Alabama Republican Party chairman who also served on the state school board and in the Legislature, said he doesn't have any firm plans for the future but intends to continue working.
Bachus, 65, said he hoped the timing of his announcement would give serious candidates time to prepare for a campaign for the open seat.
"It was just that in 2015 it is time for someone else. I'm turning to a new season," Bachus said.
Potential contenders emerged quickly.
State Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Mountain Brook, said he was considering whether to run for the open seat. "My decision is going to be based on my family," said Blackwell.
Walker County minister Stan Cooke, who ran against Bachus in the 2010 primary, said people were encouraging him to switch from the GOP lieutenant governor's race against incumbent Kay Ivey to a House campaign, but he was leaning toward staying with the lieutenant governor's race.
"We're going to evaluate that open door," Cooke said.
State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, tweeted thanks "for all the calls of support" after Bachus' announcement.
"Some big decisions ahead for me but thankful for all family & friends," wrote Ward, who did not return a message seeking further comment.
State Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, who ran against Bachus in the 2012 primary, said he was not planning to run again for Congress in 2014, but Bachus' surprise announcement has him considering it.
GOP Gov. Robert Bentley predicted many people will seek the seat, and he said losing the state's senior representative would impact Alabama.
"That does hurt us some as far as seniority is concerned, especially in the House, where we have the majority," said Bentley.
Bachus' announcement came about four months after Republican U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner of Mobile announced his resignation from southwest Alabama congressional seat to accept a job at the University of Alabama. Bonner's resignation took effect last month.
Bachus, of Vestavia Hills, won an 11th term in Congress last November, easily defeating a Democratic challenger after an unusually stiff challenge in the GOP primary from Beason, who had Tea Party backing. But he also endured an investigation of his investment practices around Congress' $700 billion Wall Street bailout. He was eventually cleared by an ethics panel.
"My family didn't enjoy that last campaign," Bachus said.
Bachus, who unseated Democratic Rep. Ben Erdreich in 1992, is a longtime member of the House Financial Services Committee, which he chaired for six years. His district includes much of metropolitan Birmingham and central Alabama into Tuscaloosa County.
Bachus said he was most proud of the years of work it took to establish the Alabama National Cemetery, which is now open for veterans in Montevallo.
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said Bachus will be missed.
"I have known Spencer to be a fine, gracious person who cares deeply about Alabama and has served his district well," Aderholt said in a statement. "Spencer chaired the Financial Services Committee during a time of shaky markets with a steady hand."
AP reporter Phillip Rawls contributed to this report from Montgomery, Ala.