Dropping an unexpected political bomb on the Hudson Valley, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, who won re-election last November by about 30 percentage points, announced Tuesday, Jan. 6 that he would not run for re-election in 2016. Gibson’s move set off a surge of speculation that the two-term congressman has his eyes on statewide office. In 2018, both the governor’s office and the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kirsten Gillibrand will be up for grabs.
The Kinderhook Republican revealed his plans in a statement he put out upon taking his oath of office in Washington Tuesday morning. “As I stated shortly after retiring from the U.S. Army and first pursuing a seat in Congress in 2010, I planned to self-impose term limits,” stated Gibson. “Accordingly, after much reflection and consultation with my family, this will be my third and final time taking the oath of office as a representative in the U.S. House. I thank the voters of Upstate New York for this privilege to serve and pledge to continue to work tirelessly on their behalf in this final term.
“Moving forward, I will be committed to building a stronger team so that the GOP can compete and win statewide in 2018, including the possibility of being a candidate in that cycle.”
In recent weeks, there had been chatter in state political circles that Gibson, who demonstrated an ability to win as a Republican in a congressional district twice taken by President Barack Obama, would be a credible candidate for statewide office. The last Republican to win statewide office was George Pataki, who was elected to a third term as governor in 2002.
On Tuesday, state Republican Party spokesman David Laska said Gibson’s resounding win against a well-financed challenger in a competitive district offered a “blueprint” for how Republicans can overcome Democrats’ two-to-one enrollment advantage in a statewide campaign.
“It’s not a conversation we’ve had yet,” said Laska. “But he’s been an exemplary member of Congress and should he want to discuss being a candidate [for statewide office] in 2018, that’s a conversation we’d be thrilled to have with him.”
Meanwhile, the national-level Democrats are seeing an opportunity to pick up a seat in Congress.
“Congressman Gibson is the second House Republican to jump ship and abandon Speaker [John] Boehner’s toxic Republican Congress. Before the gavel has even dropped, Boehner’s members have begun running for the hills in fear of having to defend their anti-middle class agenda,” a statement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released Tuesday read.
“Voters in New York’s 19th District are fiercely independent – backing President Obama in 2008 and 2012 – and they will back a Democrat who fights for the middle class,” the statement continued. “This seat will be one of the most competitive in the country as Republicans try to defend their indefensible special interest agenda against a strong Democratic candidate who reflects the values of the district and will stand up for the middle class.”
With additional reporting by Jesse J. Smith