updated 4/6/2004 11:18:51 AM ET 2004-04-06T15:18:51

Rep. Amo Houghton, a businessman turned congressman who is an institution in upstate New York politics, said Tuesday that he won’t seek a 10th term in the House.

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“I’ve decided that I’m not going to run again,” the moderate Republican told supporters. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and all the friendship you’ve given me.”

Houghton, 77, is a former CEO of Corning Inc., which his great-great-grandfather founded in 1851.

“I tell you, when you get to be 77 and you’re looking at 78, that may be a good reason (to retire). I don’t want to be known as Strom Houghton,” he said, referring to the late Strom Thurmond, who was still in the Senate when he turned 100.

However, Houghton said age was not his only reason for stepping down.

A multimillionaire, Houghton represents a kind of noblesse oblige approach to politics to many in Washington.

Founded GOP's Main Street Partnership
In 18 years in Congress, he displayed a moderate bent and in 1998 founded the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that generally votes fiscally conservative and socially moderate. The group has 66 members and a multimillion-dollar budget.

“I would like to make sure the Republican Party is centered,” he said Tuesday. “We veered too much to the right. We’ve always had this problem. The Democrats tend to veer to the left, the Republicans tend to veer to the right, and the center of both parties is constantly, constantly trying to pull us back.”

First elected to Congress in 1986, Houghton spent the past year disagreeing with the Bush administration on the war in Iraq and tax cuts.

His absence opens the solidly Republican district to a host of aspirants, though the early favorite appears to be state Sen. John “Randy” Kuhl. Houghton declined to endorse a successor

Houghton recently fought a Bush administration proposal to shutter the Veterans Affairs hospital in Canandaigua. A final decision is expected within a few weeks.

Houghton was one of two New York Republicans who voted against impeaching President Clinton. He pushed instead for a strongly worded censure.

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