UTICA, NY – House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) today announced that he will not seek reelection to Congress. 

Boehlert assumed the chairmanship of the Science Committee in 2001.  Under House Republican rules, which limit Members to three terms as chairman of a committee, he would have been required to relinquish his gavel at the end of this year even if he remained in Congress.

Boehlert delivered the following remarks at a press conference today, where he was joined by a host of friends, family members, elected officials and supporters:

U.S. Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) March 17, 2006

“Two people for whom I have the utmost respect influenced what I am about to say.  Both are well known, one a most talented and effective public servant, the other a baseball great.

“In January 2005 I sent a personal note to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, which said, ‘please, please, please resist the temptation and stay.  We need you now more than ever.’  A couple of weeks later he sent me his reply… ‘It’s time,’ he wrote.

“Today I am announcing I will not be a candidate for re-election.

“It’s time.

“When I reflect on these 24 years in Congress I, to use the language of the House in which I serve, identify with the words of the distinguished gentleman, Roger Clemens who, when asked about retirement said ‘…when I shut it down, I’ll be walking away with a smile on my face. There will be no regrets because I feel like I’ve done it the right way.’

“Those are my sentiments.  I do feel like I’ve done it the right way.

“This decision was not taken lightly nor was it made in haste.

“Every two years I go though the same process. Should I reapply for my job?  Always I have said yes, and each time the voter’s faith in me has been reaffirming.

“But last time, in 2004, it was different. While for the first time I gave serious consideration to retirement, my sense of duty kept reminding me that the next two years – last year and this – presented particular challenges and unique opportunities and I shouldn’t, to use Mr. Clemens’ words, ‘shut it down.’

“And what has been the result?

  • *We came out on top in the much-feared BRACC process.
  • *The Lockheed-Martin/Owego team was awarded the highly competitive and much prized contract for the new Presidential helicopter.
  • *New York in general and our district in particular are major beneficiaries of passage of one of the most important items on our domestic legislative agenda: The Transportation Act of 2005.
  • *The President announced ‘The American Competitive Initiative’ in his State of the Union message.  And his eloquent words in the speech were followed by meaningful deeds in the proposed budget – more investment in basic science, greater attention and resources devoted to science and math education making certain that in this Global competitive race we maintain our number one position.

  “In each of these, and so much more, I was a player.  My Science Committee Chairmanship, my years of experience and know-how and my willingness to work were employed to great advantage.

“I have never been one to stick my finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing or to be guided in my direction by the latest poll numbers – I think the people we – all of us in Congress – the people we represent want leadership, not followership.

“As I see it, my unwritten instructions from the folks back home were basic and clear: go to Washington, listen to all the arguments, pro and con, weigh all the available facts, and then do what you think is best in our interest and that of the nation.

“I have followed those instructions, believing as I do that Edmund Burke was right, more than two centuries ago, when he said,

‘Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.’

“My manner of representation and voting record of more than two decades has earned for me the label of moderate.

“I’m proud of that label, fervently believing that the overwhelming majority of thinking people reject the extremes of the left and right.

“They find stalemate unacceptable and want us to sort out our differences and find common ground.  As I see it, that personifies a moderate.

“As events of the past year in Washington have documented, this has been the ‘moderates moment.’  There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that our influence has expanded and our moment has been extended.

“A few years ago, Congressional Quarterly, the highly respected, non-partisan magazine, conducted an extensive review and analysis of the records and performance of all 535 of the Representatives and Senators.  The magazine then developed a list of 50 of ‘the most effective Members of Congress,’ honoring me among them as a ‘centrist’ who works to build consensus.

“The magazine went on to say of the group ‘they exemplify skills and behaviors that help them accomplish their goals.’

“That made me proud.

“So too am I proud of what adorns my Washington office walls.

“Absent are the traditional photos with Presidents, and Cabinet Officers.  Admirals and Generals.

“The pictures in my office are of my family – the most important people in my universe.  They mean everything to me.

“But in far larger quantities there is a collection of framed documents – laws that I have authored or co-authored with the pens – from President Reagan, the first President Bush, President Clinton and the current President – that were used to sign them.

“They have so much meaning to me because, after all, we are first and foremost legislators.

“When I visit with people, particularly students who so often wonder what its all about, I tell them I have the best job in the world.  Everyday when I go to work I know I will be involved in activities designed to make life better for others.  Nothing could be more fulfilling.

“George Bernard Shaw once wrote, ‘Some men see things as they are, and ask, why? I dream things that never were, and ask why not?’

“I’m tempted to close by saying, ‘Thanks for the Memories’ but that would be inappropriate.  I won’t recite the final verse because there is the better part of a year remaining and more work to do.