Rep. Ehlers to retire

Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) announced he's retiring at the end of his current term during a press conference in Grand Rapids Wednesday morning. 

“While I regret leaving when so much more needs to be done, I know it is time for me to step down," he said. "I am in good health, but I recognize that I should complete this chapter of my life. I look forward to spending more time with my wife and my family in Grand Rapids."

The 76-year-old was thought to be close to retirement last cycle, but he opted to seek a ninth term in Congress. Now, Johanna Meulink, Ehlers' wife, is said to have health problems, which may have influenced his decision to throw in the towel, according to a GOP source.

Ehlers is the second Republican from Michigan to quit the delegation this cycle -- Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is leaving his seat to run for governor.

Still, GOPers were confident of maintaining their numbers.
 
"If he retires, I definitely think Republicans would hold that seat," Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) said Tuesday.

Many observers expect the Republican primary, set for Aug. 3, will decide Ehlers' successor. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won Ehlers' district by less than a point in 2008. But in 2004, President Bush trounced Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), 59-40 percent.

Freshman state Rep. Justin Amash (R), whose family owns an industrial tool business, filed to run yesterday and others are expected to follow suit. 

Some other names being mentioned include state Sens. Mark Jansen (R) and Bill Hardiman (R), while Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) is also being talked about as a possible candidate.

Republican Ken Sikkema, a former state Senate majority leader, said people were already asking him to run. But he tried to ratchet down the speculation, saying "this day belongs to Vern."

"There will be plenty of time in the days ahead to speculate on who will and who won't run to replace him," Sikkema said in a statement.

Amash's support from the Tea Party movement and the potential of several of the candidates to self-fund could make it a hard-fought contest.

"It could be a good donnybrook down there for the Republican primary," a GOP source said.

Updated at 12:14 p.m.