Rep. Gary Ackerman will not run for reelection to the House in 2012, his office announced Thursday.
The New York Democrat will retire after 15 terms in Congress.
“The residents of Queens and Long Island have honored me with their trust and support for the past 34 years, first as a New York state senator, and for the past 15 terms as a member of Congress,” Ackerman said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Ackerman “a strong advocate for his community,” noting his deep knowledge of foreign affairs and his effectiveness in championing Wall Street reform.
“Congressman Ackerman has made his mark at home and left a legacy of passionate, bold leadership abroad,” Pelosi said in a statement. “He has served his constituents with distinction and pride, and earned the respect of his colleagues. We wish him and his family well in their future endeavors."
In February, Ackerman denied rumors that he was considering giving up his House seat.
"Republican rumor mill is 100%, Absolutely Wrong. I'm running," he tweeted on Feb. 12.
Ackerman’s announcement was particularly surprising because he appeared to have been spared by redistricting in New York, which is still being hammered out between a federal court panel and the deadlocked Legislature.
Slow population growth over the past decade forced the state to eliminate two congressional districts, and Ackerman could have found himself pitted against a fellow Democratic incumbent. But a court-drawn map that is expected to be the basis for the final map instead dismantled the nearby district of Rep. Bob Turner (R-N.Y.), who announced Tuesday that he would run for the Senate rather than try for reelection against a fellow member.
The reshuffling of the map on Long Island pushed Ackerman west to a Queens-based district where there would be no incumbent.
Rory Lancman — a State Assemblyman from Queens — had planned to challenge Turner, but under the new map he would have been in a primary with Ackerman, a fellow Democrat. Hours before Ackerman announced his retirement, Lancman dropped his House campaign, saying he didn’t want to challenge Ackerman.
With Ackerman out of the race, the district will be open for Lancman to reverse his decision and run for the seat, assuming the court map stands. But the open seat could also be tempting for Turner, who faces immense obstacles in mounting a serious challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
A Turner spokesman said on Tuesday that regardless of what happened with the map, he planned to stay in the race to unseat Gillibrand. Turner could not be reached Thursday night for comment on whether Ackerman’s retirement changed his intentions.
This story was updated at 9:45 p.m.