WASHINGTON – Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, agreed Tuesday to give up his House seat to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations' food and agriculture agencies.
Hall accepted the job after meeting with President Bush.
Hall, 60, has been an outspoken advocate against hunger and human rights abuses. He has represented part of southwestern Ohio since 1978.
His resignation from the House is expected to produce a closely contested election in a newly drawn district.
Republicans already have conducted a poll to test their chances and are touting former Dayton Mayor Mike Turner as a possible candidate. Democrats are pushing for a speedy Senate vote on Hall's nomination so they can field a candidate in a special election, which would occur in Hall's current district instead of the redrawn one.
Hall's district was largely redrawn last month by the Republican-controlled legislature to include fewer Democratic voters. Still, Hall was not expected to have trouble keeping the seat, which was considered so safe in 2000 that he was the only Ohio incumbent without a major-party opponent.
Apart from Turner, at least two other Republicans have expressed an interest in the race -- Roy Brown of Brown Publishing Co., whose father and grandfather served in Congress, and David Westbrock, a doctor from Centerville.
Interested Democrats include Hall's chief of staff, Rick Carne, and Montgomery County Prosecutor Matt Heck.
The filing deadline for congressional candidates is Feb. 21.
Hall was chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger and went on a hunger strike for 22 days in 1993 to protest the abolition of the committee. He later helped found the Congressional Hunger Center and now serves as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Hunger.
The U.N. position would require Hall to work closely with several food programs, including the Food and Agriculture Agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program. Based in Rome, the job has been unfilled since former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern left in October.