Rep. Robert Hurt confirmed Wednesday his plan to retire at the end of his current term, saying he believes private citizens and the private economy are the nation’s foundation.
“When I think back on my first run for public office, I never envisioned making this a career,” the Pittsylvania County Republican said in a statement to the people of the 5th District. “I ran because I believed then as I do now that every citizen should contribute in his or her own way to ensure a vibrant representative democracy.
“But I also believed then as I do now that it is not our elected leaders who make our country great, but it is, rather, the private citizen and the private economy that make this country great.
“And so it is with these two thoughts in mind that I look forward to returning to private life at the conclusion of my current term and declare that I will not seek re-election to Congress next year.
“Please accept my enduring gratitude for the opportunity to serve you, and I thank you for your gracious hospitality as I have traveled all across the 23 counties and cities of the Fifth District over these years.”
Hurt, 46, a lawyer, served in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the state Senate before he was elected to Congress in 2010, defeating Democrat Tom Perriello.
A Republican source familiar with Hurt’s thinking said the congressman has come to loathe the political process in Washington.
Two Democrats, outgoing Albemarle County supervisor Jane Dittmar and former Perriello staff member Ericke Cage, are seeking their party’s nomination to run in next year’s election for the 5th District.
Republicans mention a number of potential candidates for the seat, including state Sens. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, and Tom Garrett, R-Buckingham County; former Del. Clarke Hogan, R-Halifax; NASCAR driver Jeff Burton and Hurt’s brother, Charlie, a journalist.
Uncertainty also surrounds the future of Virginia’s political map. A three-judge panel is in the process of redrawing the state’s congressional boundaries after finding that Virginia legislators packed too many additional African-Americans into the majority black 3rd District thereby diluting their influence in surrounding counties.
Virginia also is expected to gain a 12th U.S. House district after the 2020 census, which portends further upheaval for the state’s congressional boundaries.
Officials from within the 5th District and around the state praised Hurt’s service during his three terms representing the sprawling district that extends from the North Carolina border through Southside and the Virginia Piedmont, then north to Fauquier County. Franklin County and parts of Bedford and Henry counties are also in the 5th District.
“This is a great loss to the people of the 5th as far as having their interests represented in Washington,” said Korey Snead, GOP vice chairman in the 5th District.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th, who had served with Hurt in the General Assembly and in Congress, said in a statement that Hurt is “a gentleman, statesman, constitutional scholar, and most important of all a true friend to the commonwealth of Virginia.”
Speaker of the House Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, thanked Hurt for his nearly 15 years of service in the legislature and in Congress.
“From his time in the Virginia General Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert was always a tireless advocate for his constituents,” Howell said.
“He served with humility and distinction, and exemplifies a true public servant.”
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, also praised Hurt.
“From his start in local politics on the Chatham Town Council to his tenure in the General Assembly and three terms in Congress, Robert Hurt has made a strong mark on his community,” Kaine said.
“I’m proud of our work across the aisle to help move projects like Commonwealth Crossing Business Center and Berry Hill Mega Park forward, and I’m grateful for his partnership as we continue to fight back against attempts to derail the construction of an embassy security training facility at Fort Pickett.”
Warner added: “I have respected and enjoyed working alongside Robert Hurt for 13 years.
“When Robert was a state delegate and I served as Virginia governor, we worked together to improve schools and strengthen the economy across Southside.
“Today, as colleagues in Virginia’s congressional delegation, Rep. Hurt has been a strong partner and a reliable advocate for the people of the 5th and across Virginia. I thank him for his public service and offer my best wishes.”
The 5th District profiles as favorable to Republican candidates, but it has seen volatility in the past, particularly in high-turnout presidential elections.
While Hurt won his 2014 re-election bid with 60.9 percent of the vote, he received just 55.4 percent in 2012, when turnout spiked because of the presidential election.
In 2008, Democrat Tom Perriello defeated then-Republican Virgil Goode. Two years later, Republican Hurt ousted Perriello.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the 5th District in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote to 45 percent for President Barack Obama.