Gridlocked into retirement

Posted: January 08, 2014

PARTISAN GRIDLOCK and the grinding lifestyle of commuting to Washington, D.C., were the reasons U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach cited yesterday for not seeking a seventh two-year term this year.

Gerlach, a Republican from Chester Springs in Chester County, said he spent the holidays considering whether he wanted to continue as a congressman.

One big reason to retire: the inability to get major legislation through Congress and then signed into law by the president.

Gerlach, 58, said he doesn't see that changing any time soon.

"We're just too split from a partisan standpoint," he said.

Gerlach seems a likely candidate to land a job as a lobbyist with one of Washington's K Street firms. He told reporters he has had no contact with any of those firms about that and has no set plans for what comes next.

"I don't have anything lined up," he said. "But I want to stay involved in policy-related issues."

Gerlach's announcement caught some Pennsylvania Republicans, including state party chairman Rob Gleason, by surprise. Gleason said he thought a lucrative career on K Street was likely for Gerlach.

"It's a tough job," Gleason said of the U.S. House. "You don't make a lot of money."

Bob Asher, a member of the Republican National Committee from Montgomery County, called Gerlach an "excellent congressman" yesterday.

"I'm sorry he's not running again," Asher said. "But I understand there's more to life than one particular job."

Gerlach did not rule out a run for public office in the future, although he said he will not be a candidate in 2014.

Gerlach vied for the Republican nomination for governor in 2009 and 2010 but dropped out after trailing then-state Attorney General Tom Corbett in campaign cash and name recognition.

Corbett became governor and is now seeking a second term.

A statewide race is likely several years away if that is what Gerlach has in mind. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, is in the second year of his second six-year term. And the next race for governor beyond this year is in 2018.

Gerlach said he did not feel vulnerable if he had sought another term. He was widely considered a safe bet for re-election. Redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census pushed his district west to Lebanon, farther into friendly territory for a Republican.

The 6th District covers parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties.

Gerlach defeated Dr. Manan Trivedi by a margin of 57-43 percent in the 2012 general election.

Gerlach served two terms in the state House, from 1990 to 1994, and two terms in the state Senate, from 1994 to 2002, when he was elected to the U.S. House.

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN


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