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NY Rep. John Katko is third impeachment-backing Republican to head for exit

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — John Katko, a former federal prosecutor who was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, announced Friday he will retire later this year.

Katko said in a statement he made the decision in order to, “enjoy my family and life in a fuller and more present way,” but he added has was also “guided” by his personal set of ethics.

“My conscience, principles, and commitment to do what’s right have guided every decision I have made as a member of Congress, and they guide my decision today,” he wrote.

The man he voted to impeach celebrated the announcement in his own statement. “Great news, another one bites the dust,” Trump said. “Katko, from Upstate New York, is gone!”

Katko, who took office in January 2015 and staked out a reputation as a moderate who could win elections in a central New York district that has long voted mostly for Democrats, had faced backlash from far-right members of his party and promises of vengeance from Trump after his impeachment vote.

He also faced an uncertain political future in 2022, when New York will lose a congressional seat to account for population changes in the last census.

New York is one of a handful of states where Democrats control the redistricting process. New maps have not been finalized, but it was widely believed that Katko’s 24th District could get merged with the 22nd District, represented by the Republican Claudia Tenney, who is backed by Trump.

Katko had also lost the support of local party committees after his impeachment vote, representing another potential obstacle to his reelection. He also has attracted several primary challengers in the 24th District.

He is the 13th House Republican to announce plans to retire or seek another office at the end of 2022, compared to 26 Democrats. Katko is also the third House Republican who backed impeaching Trump to announce retirement. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, and Anthony Gonzalez, of Ohio, have also announced they would not seek reelection.

 

Even before his impeachment vote last year, Katko had demonstrated a willingness to buck GOP authority, a trait that contributed to his electoral successes in the pre-Trump era. Katko has emphasized his law enforcement background and a penchant to break with his party during campaigns.

The central New York district, which includes Syracuse, has supported Democratic presidential candidates in recent election cycles, but Katko still managed to win reelection. Despite predictions from both parties that Biden would easily win the district in November, Katko won a rematch against former college professor Dana Balter. He defeated Balter by 10 points in 2020 after defeating her by 5 points in 2018. Biden won the district by 9 points.

Katko held a 65% party unity score in 2019, the third lowest among House Republicans. But he became more of a team player after the 2020 elections, siding with the House GOP on key votes 87.5% of the time since then, according to CQ Vote Watch.

Katko was the first Republican to publicly announce he would support impeachment after the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. At the time, he said he approached his decision “by reviewing the facts at hand.”

“It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection — both on social media ahead of January 6th, and in his speech that day,” Katko said in a statement the following week, referring to a rally the former chief executive headlined before his supporters, at his behest, headed across town.

Katko’s announcement came hours after he appeared at an U.S. Chamber of Commerce event where he described delivering a care package to the family of a Capitol Police officer, a former intern in the congressman’s office who, he said, was “severely assaulted” at the Capitol.

During the 2019 impeachment probe, Katko walked a fine line to keep his distance from Trump but still support fellow Republicans in their efforts to oppose the investigation led by House Democrats. The New York Republican did not approve of Trump’s alleged coercion of Ukrainian leaders into investigating his political rival in 2019. But Katko stood by his Republican colleagues and voted against both of the December 2019 articles of impeachment filed against Trump.

Aside from his moderate voting record that breaks from the party, Katko has an interest in coalition building. He’s a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of more than 40 moderate members interested in bridging the partisan gap.

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