WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said Monday he will not seek re-election this year, adding his name to a growing list of senior Republican lawmakers who have chosen to retire in what is shaping up to be a difficult election year for the GOP.

Royce, R-California, first elected in 1992, is one of eight House Republican chairmen who have announced they will forego a re-election campaign for the House ahead of the midterm elections. Like most of the others, he would have lost his gavel in the next Congress due to party rules that place a three-term limit on a chairman’s service. In a statement, Royce said he wanted to focus on that committee work during his final months in office.

“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia,” he said. “With this in mind, and with the support of my wife Marie, I have decided not to seek reelection in November.”

The past year has been a busy one for Royce, who played a key role in slapping new sanctions on North Korea, pressuring the Assad regime in Syria and pushing for a more aggressive approach toward Iran and its client regimes.

Even before his retirement, Democrats were eyeing Royce’s Orange County district as a key pickup opportunity. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the 39th Congressional District by nine points over Donald Trump in 2016, and several credible Democratic candidates have already launched campaigns for the seat.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the district as being evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Most congressional forecasters have rated the seat as leaning toward Republicans, however, based on Royce’s strong declarations that he would seek another term this year.

In September, after Democrats included Royce in a list of Republicans likely to retire, an aide said that Royce as “100 percent running for reelection.”

Other House chairmen who have announced their retirements are Bob Goodlatte (Virginia) of Judiciary, Jeb Hensarling (Texas) of Financial Services, Bill Shuster (Pennsylvania) of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Lamar Smith (Texas) of Science, Space and Technology. Three others, Diane Black (Tennessee) of Budget, Jason Chaffetz (Utah) of Oversight and Government Reform, and Gregg Harper (Mississippi) of House Administration, announced their decisions not to seek re-election before their terms would have expired.

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