McCarthy ally Garret Graves won’t seek reelection after new Louisiana map made his seat more Democratic

Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana announced Friday that he will not seek reelection, ending months of uncertainty after a new congressional map made his seat significantly Democratic.

“Representing South Louisiana and serving in the United States Congress has been an incredible honor,” Graves said in a statement, before adding that “running for Congress this year does not make sense.”

Amid a long and winding legal battle over the congressional lines in Louisiana, the US Supreme Court last month allowed the state to use the new map in this year’s elections.

A federal judge had previously thrown out the existing map, saying it likely violated the Voting Rights Act. While Black residents make up roughly a third of Louisiana’s population, the state has just one Black lawmaker – also the lone Democrat – in its six-member US House delegation.

Under the new lines crafted by the GOP-controlled state Legislature, Grave’s 6th Congressional District was redrawn into Louisiana’s second Black-majority district – one that Joe Biden would have carried by 20 points in 2020.

Graves’ announcement will come as a blow to House Republicans, who are looking to defend their razor-thin majority in the chamber.

There had been speculation that Graves could try to challenge a fellow Republican incumbent in a neighboring district. But House Speaker Mike Johnson, a fellow Louisianan, endorsed all Republican incumbents in the state’s delegation last month, including Graves for reelection to his current 6th District seat.

The congressman conceded Friday that running for a different seat this year was not an option.

“It is evident that a run in any temporary district will cause actual permanent damage to Louisiana’s great representation in Congress,” he said in remarks that hinted at potential further legal challenges to the new map.

In recent months, Graves has faced opposition from within his own party, at home and in Washington. The new map, which made Graves’ seat more Democratic, was backed by Louisiana’s Republican governor, Jeff Landry. Graves backed Landry’s opponent in the state’s gubernatorial primary last year.

Graves was also among the closest allies of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from his leadership post in October. In the lead-up to the historic vote, Graves slammed hard-line members of the House GOP conference who were dangling the threat of ousting McCarthy amid efforts to pass stopgap funding legislation.

McCarthy reacted to Graves’ announcement in a social media post Friday evening, describing the Louisiana Republican as “a loyal friend” and “the best of what public service can and should be.”

“No matter the issue, Garret was the first to jump in with enthusiasm, intellect, and a legendary sense of humor,” McCarthy said, adding that Graves’ “absence will be a major loss for the conference and the entire House.”

Graves was first elected to Congress in 2014, succeeding fellow Republican Bill Cassidy, who vacated the seat for a successful US Senate run. Under the current lines, the 6th District, which includes parts of the Baton Rouge area, has been a Republican stronghold.

But the redrawn district now leans decidedly Democratic, stretching from Shreveport in the state’s northwest to Baton Rouge. Democratic state Sen. Cleo Fields, who served in Congress for two terms in the 1990s, is seen as the front-runner in the district’s jungle primary in November.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten, Andrew Menezes and Renée Rigdon contributed to this report.

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