Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks — one of just 13 Republican women in the House — is not running for re-election in the 5th District, a Democrat target in 2020.
“It’s a very, very personal decision — not really a political decision, as odd as that may sound,” Brooks told CQ Roll Call Friday morning. She solidified her decision after spending time at the end of May in Alaska with her son, who recently moved there to teach.
“So it’s coming as a surprise to my colleagues, and I’m sorry about that surprise, but I have spent the last 16 out of time 22 years in public service,” said Brooks, who is the chair of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Brooks informed supporters of her decision Friday morning. She didn’t give leadership time to dissuade her from leaving, reaching key leaders by phone Thursday night and Friday morning.
“Steve Scalise sweetly said, ‘Hey, can we vote on this?’ Which I thought was quite funny,” Brooks recalled of her conversation with the Louisiana Republican and minority whip.
Leadership has asked Brooks to stay on in her role at the NRCC for the remainder of the cycle. She’s optimistic that not having to focus on her own re-election will give her more time to recruit GOP candidates. She’s been especially active over the years in mentoring Republican women who want to run and plans to remain engaged in those efforts.
The Democratic Congressional Committee is targeting Indiana’s 5th District, a longtime GOP stronghold, for the first time as younger, more moderate voters are moving out of Indianapolis into the suburbs. An open seat will likely give Democrats a better chance at picking up the district, which President Donald Trump carried by 12 points in 2016.
Former Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who lost statewide by 6 points last fall, narrowly carried the district. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales has shifted the rating of the district from Solid Republican to Likely Republican in response to Brooks’ decision.
Before Brooks made a final decision, her campaign conducted polling of the district that left them confident a Republican could hold the seat in 2020. Brooks declined to name any prospective candidates by name. “We have a tremendous bench in the 5th District,” Brooks said, praising the Lugar Center’s training of women who want to be in public service.
Asked if she was concerned about what kind of message her retirement sends to Republicans, especially women, considering running for office, Brooks said, “Well, sure. But I really want to stress that I have a very good relationship with the administration. I have a great relationship with leadership. I’ve been given lots of opportunities.”
“So I think I can demonstrate to people that the women in our conference are being given really big responsibility — and we do need more of them there.”
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