By Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, said on Monday she would not seek reelection after learning that her medical condition, diagnosed earlier this year as Parkinson's Disease, was more serious than previously thought.
Wexton, who represents an area of suburban Northern Virginia outside Washington, said she would serve out her current two-year term, which ends in January 2025, but would not seek a fourth term and would instead spend time with her husband and two sons.
The 55-year-old congresswoman announced in April that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's but would continue to work while being treated for the disease, which was affecting her speech.
Wexton said on Monday that after additional testing doctors had modified her diagnosis to a rare brain disorder called Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) that she described in a written statement as "a kind of Parkinson’s on steroids."
“I’ve always believed that honesty is the most important value in public service, so I want to be honest with you now, this new diagnosis is a tough one. There is no ‘getting better’ with PSP. I'll continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don't work as well as they do for Parkinson's."
Progressive supranuclear palsy is caused by a deterioration of brain cells that affect body movements, according to a description by the Mayo Clinic. It causes problems with coordination, thinking, walking, eye movement, and swallowing.
"There is currently no treatment that effectively stops or slows the progression of PSP, and symptoms usually do not respond well to medications," the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said on its website.
Wexton defeated Republican Barbara Comstock in 2018 to flip a House seat held by Republicans for decades and was reelected by a narrow margin during the 2022 midterms.
Her decision not to seek reelection could create an opportunity for Republicans to re-take the seat, without an incumbent Democrat in the race.
The seat could prove crucial as Republicans look to hold on to the narrow balance of power in the House they gained in the midterm elections and Democrats try to regain the majority.
(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)