Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Sixteen-term New York congresswoman Nita Lowey announced Thursday she will leave the House after next year's elections, opening a seat in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
Lowey, 82, was first elected to the House in 1988 representing Westchester and Rockland counties, which are traditionally Democratic regions of New York.
"I have decided not to seek re-election in 2020," Lowey said in a statement. "It is my deep honor and privilege to serve my community and my country, and I will always be grateful to the people who have entrusted me to represent them."
"I look forward to more time with my husband Steve and our family, who have strongly supported my career in public service."
Lowey is chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, the first female head of the panel. She has also served on its Homeland Security subcommittee, where she helped secure over $20 billion for recovery efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and was a key figure in saving the Public Broadcasting System during the 1990s, when GOP lawmakers threatened to cut its funding. In response, she brought Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie to a hearing to support the public network.
Lowey said she's proud of her record on women's health and basic education, especially for girls, and helping to strengthen drunk driving laws and 9/11 recovery efforts.
Her departure opens a possible gain for House Republicans in 2020. GOP lawmaker Joe DioGuardi occupied Lowey's seat before he was defeated in 1988. He lost to her again in 1992. Lowey ran unopposed in 2016 and won re-election in 2018 with 88 percent of the vote.