John Kline won’t seek re-election

MinnPost file photo by Craig Lassig
Rep. John Kline

Second District Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota delegation’s most senior Republican, announced on Thursday that he’ll be retiring from Congress when his term ends in January 2017.

“After much careful thought and deliberation I have decided not to seek re-election next year,” Kline said in a press release sent out Thursday morning. “I have never wavered in my commitment to my conservative values. And I have demonstrated my ability to find solutions to the problems that matter most to Minnesota families.”

The announcement came as a relative surprise to Congress-watchers, as did its timing — deep in the lull of the summer recess and before a holiday weekend.

On a call with reporters shortly after the announcement, Kline was relaxed and candid, saying it was “just kind of time” to move on, and emphasizing the work he still has left to do in Congress over the next 16 months, including the passage of a package to reform the No Child Left Behind K-12 education law.

Kline also made clear that his decision was not made due to health concerns, or worries that he might not win re-election in 2016. He explained that “it’s been a lot of years of me being in Washington,” adding that his grandkids had grown up in a “blink of an eye.” Kline was elected to Congress in 2002, and turns 68 this Sunday.

The seven-term congressman also acknowledged that his decision was partly motivated by the imminent end of his chairmanship of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the apex of his influence in Congress. (House committee chairmanships are limited to three terms.) “It’s time to let someone else have a shot,” he said.

Political realities

Though the 2nd District voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 and Senator Al Franken in 2014, the Cook Political Report still rated it as “likely Republican” as of August 28. Kline was candid about Republicans’ chances of holding the district in an election year when Hillary Clinton’s likely presence at the top of the ticket will heavily drive Democratic turnout.

Kline referred to his district as a “swing district” several times, and acknowledged that an incumbent Republican would probably have the best chance at holding it. However, if the Republican nominee is strong, he said, “there’s no reason why they can’t win this race.” He declined to endorse anyone in particular, and said he plans to fully support whoever the nominee might be.

Whoever does earn the 2nd District GOP nomination — and competition is now expected to be fierce — will likely benefit from some of the campaign cash Kline has raised so far. His campaign has raised over $639,000 this year. State Sen. Dave Thompson has been floated as a top potential Kline successor, but there are many other potential Republican candidates in the district.

Kline’s retirement also throws a wrench into the DFL side of the 2016 race. The two competitors so far are St. Jude Medical executive Angie Craig and VA doctor Mary Lawrence. The prospect of not facing Kline may draw a stronger Democrat into the race: State Rep. Joe Atkins, who represents a part of the 2nd District, said today he will make an announcement regarding his plans next week. Craig has raised over $350,000 so far, while Lawrence has over $1 million cash on hand, much of that self-funded.

Looking past the election and into his retirement from Congress, Kline laughed at reporters’ suggestions he would consider a run for governor or senate — though he didn’t explicitly deny them, either — or the prospect of being on a cabinet position shortlist in the event of a Republican presidential victory. “I expect I’ll have a bit more time to fish,” he said.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 09/03/2015 - 02:15 pm.

    Totally underwhelming

    For a high powered, retired, US marine, with many medals of honor, he has been totally underwhelming as a senator. Essentially his so called service in Washington has been a time to rest on his military laurels. I think he is way past retirement time.

    • Submitted by Norm Champ on 09/04/2015 - 10:38 am.

      Kline’s status and record

      Senator Kline? Thankfully; NOT. and although Rep Kline did win many citations during his service with the Corps – he did not win the Medal of Honor.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/10/2015 - 09:39 am.

      No Medal of Honor…

      And I don’t think ANYONE has ever earned more than one Medal of Honor.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/10/2015 - 01:48 pm.

        Two Medals of Honor

        General Smedley Butler, USMC, of “War is a Racket” fame, was awarded two Medals of Honor. If I recall correctly, he did not believe he deserved the first one, and only accepted it because he was ordered to do so.

  2. Submitted by Rick Ryan on 09/03/2015 - 02:18 pm.

    Goodbye

    John Kline was an awful Congressman policy-wise.Disagreed with him on everything. That said he was always willing to take a meeting and listen respectfully.
    Can’t say I’ll miss him though.

    The most important question is: Where (or should I say to whom) will the for profit college industry pour their campaign contributions now?

  3. Submitted by Brian Krause on 09/03/2015 - 04:50 pm.

    Adios

    How long before he starts his new job as chief lobbyist for APSCU (for-profit college trade association)?

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/03/2015 - 05:21 pm.

    I Suspect Rep. Kline Will Now Retire

    to a very well-appointed office in D.C.,…

    as a spokesmodel for any number of wealthy enterprises for whom he greased the skids,…

    while he represented the 2nd District.

    Still, I can’t help but wonder if the people of that district will be able to see through the,…

    “they’re one of us,” conservative candidate smokescreen during the next election campaign,…

    enough to realize that the person who PROFESSES to agree with you on some of the issues you hold dear,…

    is highly unlikely to do anything to pursue those issues in Washington,…

    nor is a “conservative” candidate likely to do anything useful to you, his constituents,…

    as Rep. Kline, himself, steadfastly refused to do.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/03/2015 - 06:23 pm.

    So what percent of taxpayer money will he get for the billions of dollars thrown to the education scammers and the billions of dllars of student loans for useless degees?

  6. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 09/03/2015 - 08:12 pm.

    I’d like…

    to see my rep, Betty McCollum do the same.

  7. Submitted by Jeffrey Swainhart on 09/04/2015 - 07:36 am.

    I predict…

    that Mr. Kline will quietly announce his new role as lobbyist for for-profit education. A fat payday for all his work saddling students in debt and keeping regulation at bay. Bill Maher was right, “worst…

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 09/04/2015 - 08:41 am.

    “After careful thought and deliberation…”

    So be it…

    if John Kline
    is inclined
    to resign?

    Yes indeed,
    that’s mighty fine

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