Rep. Thomas M. Davis, R-Va., announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this year, giving Democrats a strong opportunity to pick up a congressional seat in November.

Davis, a moderate Republican who has represented the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington since 1995, said in a statement that "the time is right to take a sabbatical from public life."

Last year, Davis opted against seeking the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. John Warner, R-Va. At the time he criticized his party for its decision to choose its nominee by convention rather than primary -- a move that favored more conservative elements of the GOP, who were lining up behind former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Davis, 59, also was stung in November when his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, lost her re-election bid to the state Senate.

Many people speculated that Davis would be vulnerable in a district that has increasingly voted Democratic in the past eight years. Two high-profile Democrats, former congresswoman Leslie Byrne and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly, had already taken steps to run for the seat.

"I have not yet decided what opportunities to pursue when I depart Congress. But it's clear to me that returning to the private sector and reacquainting myself with that view of the world is the best move for me and my family," Davis said in a statement. "I am confident we will keep this seat in Republican hands."