US Rep. Brian Higgins, longtime NY Democrat, announces departure from Congress

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said Sunday he will leave Congress before the end of his current term after growing frustrated with dysfunction in Washington.

“It’s just a time for change, and I think this is the time,” Higgins, 64, said at a news conference. He plans to leave office during the first week of February, he said.

Higgins, who serves on the House Ways and Means and Budget committees, began his 10th term in January.

“Congress is not the institution that I went to 19 years ago. It’s a very different place today,” he said. “We’re spending more time doing less. And the American people aren’t being served.”

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Higgins joins a number of Congress members who have recently announced they would not seek reelection next year, including Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, who added his name to the list last week.

“I want to come back to the city and serve this city that I have represented in Washington for the past 19 years,” Higgins said during his announcement at the Buffalo History Museum. He said he had been fielding offers but did not know what he would do next.

Higgins’ departure will likely set up a special election for the spring in New York’s heavily Democratic 26th Congressional District, which includes parts of Erie and Niagara counties, including the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

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While in Congress, Higgins has been credited with leading efforts to revitalize Buffalo’s waterfront, starting in 2005 when he negotiated funding from the New York Power Authority, which sells hydropower produced with water diverted from Niagara Falls. He is co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus and Bipartisan Cancer Caucus and a member of the Great Lakes Task Force.

“His work in Washington and western New York will be remembered for what it was: strategic, innovative, and at its core, always focused on why we do what we do as public servants: help people,” state Sen. Tim Kennedy said in a statement. Kennedy, also a Buffalo Democrat, is considered a potential candidate to replace Higgins.

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