Longtime Democratic Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, says he will retire at the end of his term.
The 75-year-old congressman announced on Wednesday that he would step down from his western Massachusetts seat because of family circumstances. His wife Rose is ill with ovarian cancer.
His decision, after previously stating that he would seek re-election, comes as Massachusetts officials wrestle with a redistricting process that will reduce the state's congressional seats from 10 to nine.
Lawmakers say the special Joint Committee on Redistricting has so far looked at four or five redrawn congressional district maps. All of which would force a showdown between two incumbents.
Olver's retirement could make it easier to avoid such a contest, but the House co-chair of the redistricting committee, Rep. Mike Moran, says it won't dictate the process. Other factors, like a population drop in western Massachusetts, play a role.
"It doesn't solve all of our problems," Moran said. "There is a movement toward the east, so we have to make sure that we consider all things, not just incumbency, when we are configuring these new districts."
The committee hopes to have the new map drawn up and approved by the Legislature before Thanksgiving.
Olver has held his seat since 1991 and was a member of the House Appropriations panel. He is a former college professor.
-- Here's Olver's statement:
Since 1991, I have had the privilege and great honor of representing the people of the First District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district has grown much larger from the district as it was in 1991, and these twenty years have been tumultuous years for America.Last December, I announced that I intended to seek to continue my congressional service beyond 2012. Over the past six months, circumstances within my family have substantially changed, and I now find I must reconsider my earlier decision.
Therefore, I will retire from the House of Representatives at the conclusion of the current (112th) Congress.
With reporting by The Associated Press and WBUR's Lynn Jolicoeur
This article was originally published on October 26, 2011.
This program aired on October 26, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.