Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the longest-serving member of the state’s congressional delegation, recently faced a dilemma — continue to serve in Congress at the behest of his strongest supporters, or keep a promise made in a prior election cycle to eventually step aside and make room for others to serve the state’s voters.
Bishop confirmed on Monday that he would do the latter and not seek re-election for a ninth term in Congress in 2020, effectively retiring from his position while leaving open the possibility of continuing his political career in a different area.
Possible gubernatorial run
Utah’s Deseret News reported that while Bishop has ruled out running for re-election to serve the state’s 1st Congressional District for another term, he has yet to completely foreclose the notion of a possible gubernatorial run or the prospect of serving the state in some other capacity.
Bishop made it clear that there needed to be a compelling reason for him to run for governor, and said, “I am not going to run for governor because I am bored or want a job.”
He said that while he was “thinking about” a gubernatorial run, the former school teacher was also considering other areas, such as education, where he believed he could help make a difference in people’s lives.
True to his word
Bishop told the newspaper that he had struggled with his decision to retire from Congress, given the fact that some supporters had urged him to run for another term, but also wanting to remain true to his word about stepping aside when the time was right.
The congressman promised voters in 2012 that once he had exhausted his ability to serve in a committee leadership position he would retire from Congress. Bishop was named the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in 2014 — and now serves as the ranking minority party member — and his term will end in 2020.
Bishop recalled having met a particular constituent years ago who told him he had been in Congress “too long” and that he made the promise to eventually step aside after having the chance to serve as a committee leader.
“Do I go back to him and say ‘I conned you once. I am going to ask you for one more term, or even two more terms?'” the congressman said. “I need to stick to my original goal.”
Tireless advocate for the environment, military and states’ rights
Aside from leading the Natural Resources Committee — which exerts considerable oversight pertaining to Utah and its abundant public lands and natural resources — Bishop is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The congressman has served Utah well on both committees, whether through the designation of critical lands as national parks and protected areas, the maximization of mineral resources wherever possible, or through his work in strengthening the defense industry and military community by fighting against base closures and helping to win lucrative defense contracts for Utah companies.
Bishop, a strong proponent of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment and the concept of states’ rights generally, was first elected to Congress in 2003 following a 16-year career in the Utah legislature. His announced retirement in 2020 has now opened the door for a slew of Republican challengers who hope to win his seat and succeed him in Washington, D.C.