N.Y. Democrat Nita Lowey to retire after 31 years in Congress

Lowey, 82, has served as the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee since the beginning of the year — the first woman to hold the post.
House Democratic caucus
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Democratic caucus in the Capitol on July 16, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

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By Adam Edelman

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said Thursday she wouldn’t run for re-election next year, bringing to a close a career in Congress that spanned more than three decades.

“After 31 years in the United States Congress, representing the people of Westchester, Rockland, Queens and the Bronx, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2020,” Lowey said in a statement.

“I am proud of the help my office has provided to thousands of constituents on matters ranging from health insurance and veterans’ benefits to Social Security and student loans,” Lowey said.

“Thank you to the people of my district for the opportunity to serve," she added. "I will continue working as hard as ever – with the same optimism and energy – through the end of this term in Congress.

Lowey, 82, has served as the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee since the beginning of the year — the first woman to hold the post.

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She had emerged in recent years as a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Lowey a "master legislator whose values-based leadership has touched countless lives in New York, across America and around the world."

"As the first woman Chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Chairwoman Lowey has not only made history — she has also made a difference for future generations, through her persistent, principled work to ensure that our budgets are a statement of our values, and that the Congress invests in our priorities as a nation," Pelosi said in a statement.

"Her many legislative achievements have been marked by great compassion and a deep appreciation for our responsibility to help those in need, from 9/11 survivors and first responders, to communities hit by Hurricane Sandy, to victims of drunk driving and to people with food allergies," Pelosi added. "Her strong leadership as Chair of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Appropriations advanced equality and opportunity, as she secured record investments in key priorities including women’s health and girls’ education."

Lowey was first elected to Congress in 1988 and has comfortably cruised to re-election in all 15 of her subsequent races. In 2018, her last election, she beat her opponent, Reform Party candidate, Joseph Ciardullo, 88 percent to 12 percent.

Lowey’s district includes much of the suburban area north of New York City, including most of Westchester County and all of Rockland County.

Politics watchers have speculated for years that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, could run for the seat once Lowey retires.

So far, only Mondaire Jones, a 32-year-old former Obama Justice Department employee, has announced a run for the seat.

Jones, who in July had announced his intention to primary Lowey, said in a statement Thursday thanked Lowey for her service and called her a “trailblazer for women and minorities such as myself.”

"There’s never been an openly gay, black member of Congress — because people like me don’t usually get anywhere close. But we’re about to make history,” Jones said.