Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a leader of the so-called Blue Dog Coalition… (Danny Johnston / Associated…)
Rep. Mike Ross, one of the few conservative Democrats who survived the midterm elections of 2010, announced Monday he won't stand for reelection in 2012.
In a letter announcing his decision, Ross cited the "tough political environment" he'd face in seeking a seventh term, and he bemoaned the current state of Congress.
"While I have worked hard to bring folks to the middle to craft common-sense solutions to the many problems that confront our nation, Washington is mired in gridlock, gamesmanship and constant partisan bickering," he said.
Ross was the lone Democrat from Arkansas to emerge victorious in the 2010 congressional elections. The state's delegation flipped from 3-1 Democrat to 3-1 Republican, and Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was also soundly defeated.
Ross has chaired the so-called Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats. The group's membership shrank from 54 members in 2010 to about two dozen when the 112th Congress was seated in January, and their influence within the caucus waned.
Jane Harman, a Blue Dog member, stepped down just a month later to lead a Washington think tank. Another, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, announced last month plans to step down at the end of his term.
Ross also said his decision was influenced by the challenge of "never ending" congressional campaigns, where "fundraising never ends, nor do the political attacks."
And yet in the same letter he discusses his interest in running for governor of Arkansas when incumbent Democrat Mike Beebe steps down -- an election that won't take place for three more years.
"I believe it would be impossible to successfully run for governor here at home, while effectively carrying out my congressional duties in Washington," Ross said.
Republicans see the news as boosting the chance of growing their House majority.
"Mike Ross is saving himself the task of defending the indefensible policies of his party in what would have been the toughest race of his career," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said.