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Congressman Gregg Harper

Mississippi’s Harper won’t run again

A Republican congressional chairman who pushed for stronger anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training in the U.S. House said Thursday that he won’t seek re-election this year.

Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi was first elected in 2008. He said in a statement that he never intended to make a career in Congress, and “10 years will be long enough.”

Harper, 61, is chairman of the House Administration Committee , which held a hearing in November about sexual misconduct involving current members of Congress. Hours after the hearing, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will require anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs — a requirement that Harper supported.

“I believe we need mandatory training, and probably everyone here would agree,” Harper said at the beginning of the Nov. 14 hearing.

Harper said Thursday that as committee chairman, he has tried to make the House more transparent and accountable.

“I will work hard in a bipartisan manner over the remainder of my term to be a problem solver,” Harper said.

Harper became the 27th House Republican to announce a decision not to seek re-election this year, compared to 14 Democrats. With Trump’s popularity in the dumps and a string of election victories in recent weeks, Democrats have hopes of gaining the 24 seats they would need to win control of the chamber.

Harper’s announcement came just days after two other congressional chairmen announced they will not run again. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, have said they’ll retire. Hatch is 83 and Shuster was barred by GOP rules from seeking another term atop his committee.

Harper, an attorney and former chairman of a county Republican Party, is an ally of Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who are also Republicans. He has been widely seen as someone Bryant might appoint to the Senate if Cochran retires before his six-year term ends in January 2021.

Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He turned 80 in December and has had health problems that prompted questions about whether he will remain in the Senate. Cochran missed some work in Washington during the fall because of urinary tract infections. He also had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose in early December, but was back at the Capitol to vote for the tax-cut bill that was signed by President Donald Trump.

Cochran’s chief of staff, Brad White, said this week that the senator intends to remain in office.

“As long as he can be effective and deliver for the state of Mississippi, that’s what he wants to do,” White told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Cochran said in his own statement Thursday that Harper “is a good friend who has represented our state well.”

Harper and his wife have a 28-year-old son with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that can lead to intellectual and developmental impairment. Harper started a congressional internship program for students with intellectual disabilities from the Mason Life Program at George Mason University.

Mississippi has one Democrat and three Republicans in the U.S. House. Harper’s decision not to seek re-election creates an opening in the 3rd District, which includes all of 20 counties and parts of four, making a diagonal across the central part of the state.

Most of the territory in the current 3rd District has been represented by a Republican during the past two decades, but parts of it were represented by a Democrat before Mississippi lost a congressional seat after the 2000 Census.

Candidates’ qualifying deadline is March 1. Party primaries are June 5, and the general election is Nov. 6.

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.

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