One of the most powerful Republicans in Congress just stunned the political world by announcing he will retire

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) interrogates IRS Commissioner John Koskinen as he testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington Monday June 23, 2014.

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Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) interrogates IRS Commissioner John Koskinen as he testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington Monday June 23, 2014.
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REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

  • Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, will retire from Congress in 2018.
  • Gowdy is the ninth chair of a House committee to leave office during this Congress, continuing an unprecedented trend.

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy will retire from Congress at the end of his term this year, just several months after taking the reins as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In a statement Wednesday that stunned much of the political world, Gowdy announced he will be leaving Congress at the end of 2018, opting to return to his career in the justice system.

“Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to the people of South Carolina for the privilege of representing them in the House of Representatives,” Gowdy said. “The Upstate of South Carolina has an incredible depth and breadth of assets including numerous women and men capable of representing us. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve in the People’s House and-prior to Congress-to advocate on behalf of justice in our court systems.”

“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system,” Gowdy added. “Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.”

Gowdy also noted that the candidacy deadline in South Carolina is a month and half away, which is why he is making the announcement at this time. Gowdy said “it is important to give the women and men in South Carolina who might be interested in serving ample time to reflect on the decision.”

Gowdy’s departure is yet another in a long list of Republican committee chairs abruptly leaving office in 2018. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who Gowdy replaced as head of the Oversight Committee, resigned last year to pursue a career at Fox News. Meanwhile, seven other chairmen and women have left or announced their intent to leave Congress this year, either to seek a different office, retire, or resign.

Just days ago, the Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, announced his retirement despite having several more years as chair of the committee.

Gowdy earned his reputation on Capitol Hill as a swift interrogator while helming the House Select Committee on Benghazi, where he took on a prominent role in grilling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for nearly 11 hours. But now he is leaving Congress along with dozens of other Republicans this year.

“The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time and a season for all things,” Gowdy said. “There is a time to start and a time to end. There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”