Democratic Rep. Lois Capps, now serving her 10th term representing a congressional district along California's Central Coast, announced Wednesday that she will not seek another term.
In a statement, Capps said it was time for her to return to the California community and family that she so loves. Capps succeeded her late husband, Walter, who died of a heart attack nine months into his term.
A nurse, the 77-year-old Capps has served on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Over the years, she has often focused on health issues with legislation that includes increasing the availability of emergency defibrillators, expanding opportunities for people to get into nursing and improving Medicare coverage for patients suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.
Capps has also led the fight among Democratic lawmakers in the state to ban new exploration and drilling for oil and gas along the California coast. She pointed to a 1969 oil spill near her hometown of Santa Barbara to explain her opposition.
"It's been a hard decision to make, for I have loved this job," Capps said. "... But life moves on. And in the meantime I am very much looking forward to our final 22 months together in public office."
Capps' district is considered competitive. It included all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and part of Ventura County. She won the November, midterm election by a margin of 3.8 percentage points against Republican Chris Mitchum, who had received little financial help from the national GOP. The race is likely to be a prime target for Republicans and Democrats in 2016. The number of registered Democratic voters exceeds the number of registered Republican voters by about 3 percentage points.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Capps translated the knowledge and skills she gained as a nurse to helping transform the lives of people in California and nationally.