By Michael Zennie and Alana Abramson
Updated: April 11, 2018 11:03 AM ET

House Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek re-election, leaving both his seat and the most powerful position in the House of Representatives up for grabs in the 2018 midterm elections.

Ryan said he intends to “run through the tape” and serve out the rest of his term until January 2019 as both a congressman and Speaker of the House. He is the latest senior Republican to retire from Congress in the face of what is expected to be a wave election for Democrats.

However, at a press conference Wednesday morning, the 48-year-old Wisconsin Republican insisted that neither electoral politics, nor tension with President Donald Trump played a role in his decision to leave office. Instead, Ryan repeatedly said he was retiring to focus more on his family.

“If I were to serve one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I can’t let that happen,” he said.

The Wisconsin Republican said he fully intends to hand the House Speaker gavel over to another Republican when he retires – though national polls for the 2018 midterm election favor Democrats over Republicans by five to eight percentage points.

Ryan said Republicans have “achieved a heck of a lot” during his tenure as Speaker of the House. He touted the recent Republican tax bill – “the major reform of our tax code for the first time in 26 years “– and increased funding and improved readiness for the U.S. military as his two biggest accomplishments.

He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998 and was reelected nine times by wide margins. In 2018, Ryan may have faced a fringe challenge in the Republican primary and a Democratic field that includes Randy Bryce, who has gained attention for a viral video touting his blue collar roots.

Ryan has served as House Speaker since October 2015, when he was elected to succeed John Boehner after Boehner resigned in the middle of his term. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.

President Donald Trump tweeted support for Ryan shortly after the announcement, saying: “Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!”

The news of Ryan’s retirement was immediately greeted with glee from the Democratic Party. “Speaker Ryan sees what is coming in November,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law. “Stay tuned for more retirements as Republicans increasingly realize that their midterm prospects are doomed.”

Read the full statement from Paul Ryan’s office below:

“This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House. He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January. After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him. He will discuss his decision at a press conference immediately following the member meeting.” –Brendan Buck, Counselor to the Speaker

 

Write to Michael Zennie at michael.zennie@timeinc.com and Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com.

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