Gowdy, former Benghazi committee chairman, not seeking re-election

February 1, 2018 in News by RBN Staff


Source: Go Upstate | By Bob Montgomery

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, saying his skills “are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress.”

“The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time and a season for all things,” Gowdy said in his statement. “There is a time to start and a time to end. There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”

A spokeswoman for Gowdy’s office said the congressmen would not be doing any interviews this week.

Gowdy, who is finishing his fourth term, was first elected in 2010 after a contentious battle with former Rep. Bob Inglis. He represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg.

The Spartanburg High School graduate and former federal prosecutor gained national prominence as chairman of the committee that investigated the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In 2016, Gowdy criticized then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over her handling of classified emails.

Republican observers said Gowdy has talked about opening a law office in Spartanburg or Greenville, so he can continue his law career and be near his family. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said Gowdy has been mentioned for a possible judgeship on the 4th Circuit Court, but has indicated he is not interested.

For those who know and support him, Wednesday’s news was bittersweet — Gowdy has made no secret of his disdain for Washington and desire to spend more time in the Palmetto State, though supporters in the Upstate largely view him as a staunch, and reliable, conservative voice.

“While not totally surprised, and happy for him and his family, I am disappointed for our community and the Upstate,” former Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet said. “Trey has been, and is, a tremendous public servant with a set of unique skills and deeply held values. He cares about and respects people and understands and staunchly supports the rule of law. He will be a very hard person to replace.”

Scott, who has worked closely with Gowdy, said his presence will be missed in Washington. Scott and Gowdy have been mentioned as a possible governor-lieutenant governor team for South Carolina, though Scott on Wednesday called that the “news of yesterday, not of tomorrow,” and added, “There is no plan for us running for office as a team. Frankly I doubt Trey will be running (for political office) again.”

“I am so happy for the Trey Gowdy family, as I know they will be thrilled to have Trey back home more often, and for Trey because of everything he has accomplished in Congress. He has always put the people of Greenville-Spartanburg first, despite his congressional responsibilities grabbing so many headlines,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott later told reporters, “From a congressional perspective … we will miss his even-keel approach to his job. He is known for his friendships across the aisle. I will miss the camaraderie. For me personally, he was one of the funniest guys in Congress.”

Republican strategist Luke Byars, who helped to elect Gowdy to his first term in 2010, said the congressman has talked about opening his own law office in Spartanburg or Greenville. Clemson University professor Dave Woodward, who also has advised Gowdy’s political campaigns, used to take his students to observe Gowdy prosecute cases in the courtroom.

“He’s always been interested and fascinated with all aspects of the law,” Byars said. “Everybody that’s seen him operate knows how effective he is, not only as a prosecutor but holding public officials accountable.”

Local Republican activists weren’t surprised by Wednesday’s news.

“The rumor that Trey Gowdy would be going to the justice system has been out there a year or more. It was just a matter of when,” said Rick Beltram, former chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party. “He’s been responsive to the community. Trey is one of those guys who’s going to be a superstar wherever he goes.”

Barry Wynn, a financial adviser and former chairman of the S.C. Republican Party, said Gowdy never indicated that he intended to become a lifetime congressman.

“He did not see himself as a career politician. He loves the law and the legal aspects of operating every day within the law. Washington is still just a cluster,” Wynn said. “He has real high approval ratings. Unlike most in the Washington swamp, he’s above it and so trustworthy.”

State Rep. Steven Long of Boiling Springs said Gowdy has been “a spiritual force in Washington, especially when it comes to attacking government corruption like the IRS and Benghazi scandal.”

“I hate to see him go,” Long said on social media. “While I can understand his desire to get out of the DC swamp, I truly wish he would stay and see some of these issues through to the end.”

Gowdy formally entered public service in 1994 when he was appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney. Six years later, Gowdy resigned to run for 7th Circuit Solicitor, beating incumbent Holman Gossett.

In mid-January, Gowdy resigned his position from the House Ethics Committee. He was recently named the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He also is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.

During a November visit to Spartanburg, Gowdy talked about his frustrations in Washington at a Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“It is an interesting, somewhat challenging political environment we’re in right now,” Gowdy said then. “Why is Congress divided? Because the United States is divided.”

Gowdy’s full statement is below.

“Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to the people of South Carolina for the privilege of representing them in the House of Representatives. The Upstate of South Carolina has an incredible depth and breadth of assets including numerous women and men capable of representing us. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve in the People’s House and—prior to Congress—to advocate on behalf of justice in our court systems.

“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.

“There is no perfect time to make this announcement, but with filing opening in six weeks, it is important to give the women and men in South Carolina who might be interested in serving ample time to reflect on the decision.

“To my wife, Terri, and our two children, Watson and Abigail: thank you for all you sacrificed, missed, or did alone so I could serve as both a prosecutor and a member of the House.

“To my parents and my three sisters: thank you for having confidence in me and high expectations for me, even when I did not.

“To the women and men I worked with at the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the United States District Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and in Congress: thank you for the texture, depth and joy you added to life.

“To the law enforcement officers and victims of crime: thank you for personifying courage.

“To those across South Carolina and our country who, over the past 7 years, have expressed words of encouragement, accountability and even criticism: thank you. All are needed for those in public service.

“The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time and a season for all things. There is a time to start and a time to end. There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”