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Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood to retire

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Rep. Ray LaHood

By AP/KWMU

Peoria, Ill. –

To hear Thursday's interview with Ray LaHood, as it aired on public radio station WCBU in Peoria, click here

Central Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood, who earned a reputation for civility in the harsh world of politics, will retire after seven terms in Congress, an aide said Thursday.

The Peoria Republican will formally announce his retirement during news conferences Friday in Peoria, Jacksonville and Springfield, LaHood spokesman Tim Butler said.

LaHood, 61, said in an interview Thursday with Peoria radio station WCBU that the prospect of leading an ordinary life after 30 years in politics "is pretty appealing."

"I've never thought of myself as a career politician ... I do think there comes a time to move on and do something else and this is the right time for it," LaHood said.

LaHood will officially retire from Congress in January 2009. He said he announced his retirement early to give prospective candidates time to consider a run for the seat, which has been held for nearly a half-century by LaHood and his predecessor, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Peoria.

"There's no heir apparent ... This will be a wide open race," LaHood said.

LaHood was re-elected in November to his seventh term in the 18th Congressional District in central Illinois.

He was first elected in 1994, when Michel retired after 19 terms in Congress, the last 14 years as House Republican leader. LaHood had been Michel's chief for staff for 12 years.

"That's a major, major loss," Morton Mayor Norm Durflinger said of LaHood's retirement. "I understand it's got to be a grind flying back and forth from Washington to Peoria, but we've just lost a major, major player. We've lost a great deal of seniority."

LaHood and his wife, Kathy, who will celebrate 40 years of marriage in November, decided to explore retirement this summer after LaHood opted against applying for the presidency of his alma mater, Bradley University in Peoria.

He said the decision was not tied to Republicans' loss of power when Democrats regained control of the House and Senate this year.

"This is more about our personal lives and our ability to carry on a quality of life that we really haven't had for the last 40 years," LaHood said.

LaHood, who also served in the Illinois House and worked on former U.S. Rep. Tom Railsback's staff, briefly considered a challenge to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2005. He said then that he abandoned the bid after voters in his district encouraged him to "stay where I am."

A former teacher, LaHood helped organize conferences for lawmakers intended to restore civility between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

He is a ranking member of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel and serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

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