Rep. Susan Brooks has decided not to seek reelection in 2020, a stunning blow for House Republicans who had chosen her to lead recruitment in their attempt to claw back the majority.
The Indiana Republican will leave after her fourth term in the House, where she has been a rare moderate voice in a GOP that has veered sharply to the right under President Donald Trump. She has also been a vocal advocate for helping to elect Republican women to the House, where she is currently one of just 13.
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Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that Brooks will continue to head up the party’s recruitment efforts: “We are full steam ahead.”
Still, the decision — which came as a surprise to many in Republican and Democratic circles — creates an opening for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is targeting her seat for the first time this year.
One potential replacement has already come into view: Brooks’ chief of staff, Megan Savage, is considering running for the Indiana Republican’s seat in 2020, multiple GOP sources confirmed to POLITICO.
Savage, an Indianapolis-native and young mom who has been Brooks’ top deputy since 2015, hasn’t made a final decision about whether to run, sources say. But Republicans believe she could help protect the long-time GOP seat.
Brooks told The Indianapolis Star, which first reported the news on Friday, that she realizes it’s not what GOP leaders wanted to hear but that it’s the right decision for her.
“While it may not be time for the party, it’s time for me personally,” Brooks said. “This really is not about the party. It’s not about the politics. It’s just about, ‘How do I want to spend the next chapter of my life?’”
In a statement to POLITICO, Brooks said it was time for new leadership in her district.
“With gratitude for all that I’ve accomplished, I believe in term limits and in the power of new talent,” she said, adding that she would “guarantee a Republican victory” for her seat.
Brooks won her district by about 14 points last fall, and Donald Trump had won it by 12 points in 2016.
Republicans initially scoffed when the DCCC added Brooks to a “Retirement watch” list earlier this year.
But Democrats believe the district — which has been held by Republicans since the ‘90s — could be swinging in their favor, with a younger and wealthier voting base.
DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Il.) said Brooks’ retirement is “the clearest evidence yet that Washington Republicans efforts to retake the majority are in a tailspin.”
Bustos added that Brooks’ departure highlighted the trouble Republicans face in adding women to their caucus.
“In a party whose leadership continually marginalizes women’s voices, losing Congresswoman Brooks, who was working hard to recruit women to run for office, underscores the problem Washington Republicans have created for themselves,” she said.
Emmer (R-Minn.) said that Brooks’ legacy would be a “new Republican majority far more diverse than it was when she found it.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, the no. 3 Republican in the House and another of the few Republican women, said Brooks’ “voice and passion will be sorely missed in our conference.”
Brooks has long touted herself as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, with a role in the Problem Solvers Caucus. But she has also overwhelmingly voted with Trump since he took office.