WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Gary Miller, a Southern California Republican, said on Wednesday he would not seek re-election after more than 15 years in Congress, creating an opening for Democrats to gain a seat in a district considered one of the riskiest in the nation for an incumbent Republican.
Forty-one members of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate have announced plans to leave their seats, including 23 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
"I will not seek re-election to Congress at the end of this term," Miller, who was first elected to the House in 1998, said in a statement.
"While family circumstances dictate that I must leave this great institution at the end of this session of Congress, I am committed to serving out my term with the same energy and enthusiasm that I have always brought to the debate."
Miller represents a district in San Bernardino County that stretches from Rancho Cucamonga, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, to the town of Redlands further east.
He was widely seen as one of the nation's most vulnerable Republican members of the House, said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the nonpartisan California Target Book which handicaps electoral races.
Some 41 percent of voters in the district are registered as Democrats, and 34 percent are Republicans, Hoffenblum said.
Miller had been expected to face a hard re-election battle in November, said Hoffenblum, a former Republican consultant. "With Miller now retiring there still will be a battle among Democrats but this will likely be a Democratic pickup," he said.
In describing his family situation, which he had cited as his reason for leaving Congress, Miller mentioned that when he was first elected his children were grown and out of the house.
"Today, we have a full house again," Miller said. "My wife and I are raising our three grandchildren."
In a case that gained widespread media attention, the three grandchildren were taken to Mexico in 2007 by their mother, Jennifer Lopez Dejongh, amid a custody dispute. She was arrested in Mexicali, Mexico, in 2011 with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the three children were returned to California.
Jennifer Lopez Denjongh is the ex-wife of Miller's son, Brian Miller. She took the children along with her husband, George Dejongh, after a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ordered shared custody between Brian Miller, Jennifer Lopez Dejongh and the grandparents.
In 2012, Jennifer Lopez Dejongh and George Dejongh pleaded no contest to three counts each of child custody deprivation, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. They were sentenced to five years of formal probation, but have appealed, Robison said.
(Reporting by Jim Loney in Washington and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Chang)