Republican Rep. Dan Benishek said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election next year, a surprising announcement that could mean a competitive race for his Northern Michigan seat.
The three-term lawmaker's decision was his latest reversal about his political future. When first elected in 2010, Benishek said he would serve only three House terms.
But in April he said he would seek re-election next year anyway, citing his desire to continue trying to improve services from the Veterans Affairs Department.
The 63-year-old's retirement announcement Tuesday did not address why he had changed his mind again. He said not seeking re-election "will allow me to focus my time and attention on helping our veterans and working to make things better for the families and workers throughout Northern Michigan, and devote more time to my family."
Benishek was re-elected in 2014 with 52 percent of the vote, and national Republicans were bracing for a potentially close race even before he said he will step down. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign organ, had named him to their 2016 Patriot Program, which funnels money and logistical help to incumbents who need extra help.
Benishek's district gave GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney 54 percent of the vote in his 2012 race against President Barack Obama, but Obama won by 2 percent points over Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008.
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