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Gerlach says he won't seek re-election

| Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 2:33 p.m.
Rep. Jim Gerlach

Western Pennsylvania native Jim Gerlach said on Monday he won't seek a seventh term as a Republican congressman for suburban Philadelphia, a decision that surprised people in both political parties.

“Everyone thought Gerlach was fairly safe. Obviously, the line of thinking was not correct,” said Democratic strategist Mike Mikus.

“I am disappointed that he is not going to be part of our delegation,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, an Upper St. Clair Republican. “He is a great member, very thoughtful and extremely hardworking. He will really be missed.”

It is the second time the six-term congressman from Chester County said he wouldn't seek re-election.

In 2009, Gerlach said he would not run so he could seek his party's primary nomination for governor. He dropped his gubernatorial bid in January 2010 and climbed back into the congressional race, winning easily in November.

Gerlach's campaign manager, Vince Galko, said Gerlach doesn't intend to run in this year's Republican primary against Gov. Tom Corbett.

Gerlach, 58, said in an email that after 12 years in Congress and 12 years in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, it is “time for me to move on to new challenges and to spend more time with my wife and family.” He didn't say what those challenges might be.

“This is a tremendously difficult decision because I have had the opportunity to work with a multitude of dedicated public servants throughout the years. Together, we have worked to strengthen our communities and create opportunities for the hard-working families we have been privileged to represent,” Gerlach said.

Originally from Ellwood City, Gerlach first ran for office in 1986. Former state Rep. Frank LaGrotta, a Democrat, beat him in a state House race. Gerlach moved to Chester County and served the area as a state representative and state senator before winning his U.S. House seat in 2002.

From 2002 to 2010, the 6th District was considered a “swing seat” and one of the country's most competitive, Galko said.

“Redistricting in 2012 made the seat less competitive, but he always had tough races,” Galko said.

Gerlach easily defeated Democrat Dr. Manan Trivedi, a Iraq War veteran, in 2010 and 2012.

Kyle Kondik, a House political analyst at the University of Virginia, moved the race for the seat from “safe for Republicans” to a toss-up after Gerlach's announcement.

Incumbent House members get re-elected more than 90 percent of the time, Kondik said.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7879 or szito@tribweb.com.

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