U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings announced his retirement Thursday, saying he will not run for re-election this fall.
The 10-term Republican said it is time to move on, primarily because he wants to spend more time with his family.
Hastings, 73, told an audience of community leaders and media at the Pasco Best Western that leaving his wife, Claire, and other family members behind when he reports each week to Washington, D.C., is the toughest part of the job.
"My wife has been the greatest pillar of support, and it will be 20 years, and if you add the eight years I was in the Legislature -- I think she deserves to have a husband that's here more often than not," Hastings said.
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Hastings, a Pasco High School graduate and former proprietor of his family's paper supply business, began his political career when he was elected as Franklin County Republican Party chairman in 1974. He served as a delegate for Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican convention, when the former California governor challenged then-President Gerald Ford.
He served in the state House of Representatives from 1979-87, and defeated Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee for a Congressional seat as part of the 1994 "Republican wave" election.
Inslee lived in Selah and represented the 4th Congressional District for a term. Before that, Sid Morrison, of Zillah, held the seat for more than a decade.
Now governor of Washington, Inslee said in a statement Thursday that he appreciates Hastings' contributions to the district.
"We worked together on the Hanford Caucus that helped keep the issue a priority in Congress," Inslee said. "Despite the fact that we each beat the other once, we had a good working relationship, could enjoy a laugh together and swapped plenty of basketball tales. I appreciate Claire's contribution to this state too, and on behalf of all Washingtonians wish them both good luck in retirement."
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, House Speaker John Boehner and several members of the state's congressional delegation also issued statements Thursday thanking him for his service and lauding his work on Hanford and other issues.
Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council, said Hastings' retirement is a loss for Central Washington and the Tri-Cities.
"It's going to take his replacement several years to gain traction in the House," he said.
Losing Hastings on the heels of retired Rep. Norm Dicks amounts to a huge loss in seniority among House members watching out for the Tri-City area, said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC's vice president of Hanford programs.
Dicks, formerly the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, represented the 6th District in Western Washington before he stepped down in 2013, but fought alongside Hastings for money for Hanford, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and preservation of B Reactor.
Benton County Republican Party Chairman Chuck Monasmith agreed that Hastings' seniority and status of chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee will be missed by his constituents.
"That's the part we'll miss the most because we have to start with a freshman now," he said.
Whoever ends up replacing Hastings may not be as familiar with the Tri-Cities. He lives in Pasco, but his district stretches north to Canada and south to Oregon and also includes Yakima.
Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck said the sprawling district has been well-served by Hastings.
"I believe his service has been pragmatic and principle-based," said Peck, also chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party Central Committee. "While I have not personally agreed with every decision, I've certainly felt well-represented in the time I've lived in the Fourth."
Gavin Seim of Ephrata filed in December with the Federal Election Commission to seek Hastings' seat in the election. Seim refers to himself as an "artist, patriot, Christian and herbalist" on his Twitter page.
Others are sure to follow.
"Let's say I haven't ruled it out," said Peck, when asked if he would run for Congress.
Others who have been mentioned as possible candidates include state Sen. Sharon Brown, Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin -- whom Brown replaced in Olympia -- and Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. All are Republicans. Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has been discussed as a Democratic candidate.
Hastings defeated badly outspent Democrat Mary Baechler in the 2012 election by 66 percent to 34 percent.
Benton County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Jay Clough said the Democrats will have a strong candidate this time around. He has spoken to possible candidates in the Tri-Cities and Yakima.
"I wouldn't want to thrown any names out there until they are ready to be thrown out there," Clough said.
One person who said he won't run is Hastings' son, Colin Hastings, executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
"There's going to be a good list of candidates, and I have a young family," he said.
The elder Hastings took a shot at President Obama during his news conference Thursday, calling the Democrat's 2012 re-election his greatest disappointment during his time in office.
"I am very, very concerned about the precedents that this president is setting," he said. "That future presidents may take up that I think will infringe upon our freedoms."
But he is still bullish on the country, he said, and he believes the difficulties the country faces are not as bad as what it's seen in its history.
"America has gone through a great deal in its past, and I'm sure we have the resiliency to do it again," Hastings said.
Hastings will miss his colleagues in Congress, he said.
"There's 435 different walks of life, they're all very competitive individuals or they wouldn't be there," he said. "I'll miss the interaction, there's no question about that, but all good things have to come to an end."
Hastings hasn't decided what he will do with his time once he leaves office, though he would consider other opportunities if they come up, he said.
"I really don't have any concrete plans other than to live in the real Washington," he said.