Michigan Rep. Mitchell won't seek 3rd term in Congress

FILE - In this July 24, 2019 file photo, Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mitchell, a second-term Republican will not seek re-election to Congress in 2020. Mitchell's spokesman said Wednesday, July, 24, 2019, that he'll announce his retirement in a floor speech. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
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DAVID EGGERT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Second-term Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to Congress, citing a desire to focus on his family and expressing frustration with his time in Washington.

The decision was a surprise because Mitchell is 62 and was elected less than three years ago to a safe GOP seat in a critical battleground state. He said his goal has been to address significant challenges facing the country, such as health care, immigration and infrastructure.

"However, it appears to me that rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city," Mitchell said in an emotional speech on the House floor. "The time has come to make a difference for my family — to focus my time and energy upon them, their needs, their goals."

Mitchell last week criticized President Donald Trump for tweeting that four Democratic congresswoman of color should "go back" to countries "from which they came," but he opposed a Democratic-backed House resolution that condemned the comments as racist. Mitchell subsequently asked Vice President Mike Pence for a meeting with Trump to discuss the tweets and how the crowd at a Trump rally chanted "send her back" about one of the women, Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The other three women were born in the U.S.

Mitchell represents Michigan's 10th Congressional District, which includes the rural Thumb region and portions of Macomb County in suburban Detroit. The district's voters heavily backed Trump in 2016, and Mitchell's departure will likely spark a highly contested Republican primary.

His announcement is the second in under a month to upend the state's 2020 House races. Fifth-term Rep. Justin Amash, a Trump critic who has called for impeachment proceedings, left the GOP and became an independent. Several Republicans and Democrats have launched campaigns in his Grand Rapids-area district. No GOP candidates have emerged yet to run for two key suburban Detroit seats that Democrats flipped in the 2018 midterm election.

A retired vocational school company CEO, Mitchell spent $2.9 million of his fortune to win a five-way GOP primary in 2016 following the retirement of Rep. Candice Miller. He beat three then-current or former state lawmakers and a military veteran.

Mitchell unsuccessfully ran for a different congressional seat in 2014 and led the opposition against a 2015 state constitutional amendment that would have increased the sales tax to boost spending on roads.

"It is an honor to stand on this floor, debate issues and represent the people of Michigan's 10th District," he said. "I'm proud to be among the 12,500 or so that have had the privilege to serve in Congress."

Mitchell said he has approached his job "full tilt," and noted that the youngest of his six children — who has special needs — is 9 years old. The family lives on a small farm in Dryden in Lapeer County.

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