Dem Rep. Cardoza won't seek reelection

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a five-term California Democrat and prominent member of the conservative-leaning Blue Dog Coalition, will not seek reelection next year, the congressman announced Thursday.

In a lengthy statement, Cardoza suggested that the partisan stalemates that have practically defined Congress this year contributed to his decision.

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"The constant focus on ‘screamers’ and the ‘horse race’ of elections is smothering useful discourse and meaningful debate of public policy," Cardoza said. "This, in turn, is fueling the increasingly harsh tone in American politics. My experience tells me that those who shout the loudest, and give the most speeches, have the fewest good solutions for America’s challenges."

Redistricting in the state might also have been a factor in the decision. Cardoza's longtime ally, Rep. Jim Costa, would now be able to run in a redrawn district that includes much of Cardoza's base. Costa's new district became more Republican and would have been tougher for him to hold in 2012.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said Cardoza "realized it will be impossible to continue to fool voters about his self-proclaimed Blue Dog label as the political environment worsens for Democrats between now and Election Day.

"Cardoza may be throwing in the towel, but many of his colleagues, like Jim Costa, will be rejected by voters for continuing to defend the job-destroying Obama-Pelosi agenda,” Burgos said.

Cardoza first came to Washington as a congressional intern in the late 1970s before returning to California to enter state politics. He worked as chief of staff to then-State Assemblyman Gary Condit, who would later be elected to the House and become embroiled in the scandal over murdered intern Chandra Levy.

When Condit was licking his wounds from the Levy episode in 2002, Cardoza defeated him in the Democratic primary.

Since the housing bust, Cardoza has emerged as perhaps the most vocal House advocate for more aggressive foreclosure-prevention policies — a position that led him to become the loudest critic of the Obama administration's work on the issue.

In Thursday's retirement announcement, Cardoza said he's "dismayed by the administration’s failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis."  

"Home foreclosures are destroying communities and crushing our economy," he said, "and the administration’s inaction is infuriating."

Cardoza also took a shot at the news media for what he characterized as a "general lack of attention to moderate members of Congress."

The focus on partisan bickering in the press, he charged, has only exacerbated the polarization of the country and the dysfunction in Washington.

The 52-year-old Blue Dog charged that voters share the blame for the current political environment, arguing that "voters need to reward statesmanship" above showmanship.

"Too many Americans are losing faith in our government and our democracy," he said. "For our country to change course, voters must aggressively punish extreme partisanship and rhetoric when they cast their ballots."

Cardoza is the third Blue Dog Democrat to announce his retirement this year. Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.) and Mike Ross (Ark.) have also said they are not running for reelection. 

— Cameron Joseph contributed. Last updated at 12:12 p.m.