A Republican congressman in California said Tuesday he won’t run for re-election next year, making him the 18th GOP incumbent to bow out of the U.S. House of Representatives now that the party is in the minority.
U.S. Rep. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley announced he will instead run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 2020.
California has 53 U.S. House seats, the most of any state. Its Republican congressional delegation was cut in half during the 2018 midterms, leaving the party with just seven of those seats.
Cook’s job in the sprawling 8th Congressional District, which stretches from the Inland Empire east to the Arizona and Nevada borders and far north into the Eastern Sierra, likely would have been safe had he wanted it. President Donald Trump won more than 54% of the vote in the district in 2016. And in a state where the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, the 8th District was the only one in 2018 to have two Republicans pitted against each other.
However, local government jobs in California are bigger than in most states. San Bernardino County has more than 2 million people, making it one of the largest counties in the country.
Cook declined to elaborate on his decision through a spokesman. In a news release, Cook hinted at frustrations with the bureaucracy in Washington.
“As a supervisor, I’ll work to carry out the will of my constituents, while fighting the bureaucracies in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., that seek to overrun rural communities like ours,” Cook said.
Republican state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte has already announced his candidacy to replace Cook, launching a campaign website on Tuesday that includes an endorsement from Cook.
Cook is the 18th House Republican this year to say they won’t seek re-election in 2020 or are resigning from office, a large number that’s expected to grow. Just four House Democrats have so far announced they’re leaving.
Of the 18 departing House Republicans, 16 will serve out their two-year terms but aren’t running again for their seats. Former Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino left Congress in January and has already been replaced, and Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin has said he will leave office next Monday.
The move would be a return to local government for Cook, a Vietnam War veteran who began his political career on the Yucca Valley Town Council. He spent six years in the California Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2012.
“While I’ve been called to serve in other capacities such as Congress, my focus has always been on empowering communities and making sure local residents have the strongest voice in decisions that affect them,” Cook said.