Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-02) announced on Monday that he will not run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018.
The news surprised many East Tennesseans who have been represented by a member of the Duncan family for more than 50 years. Duncan’s father, John J. Duncan Sr., served the area in Congress from 1965 to 1988, when he died of cancer. He was succeeded by his son “Jimmy” who won a special election that same year and has held the seat ever since.
Duncan has been a consistently conservative voice throughout his tenure in Washington, routinely receiving high scorecard ratings from the Heritage Foundation. He is also known for his independence.
“It has been a very special privilege to represent the people of the Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, I will not be running for re-election in 2018,” Duncan said in a statement released to WBIR and other media outlets on Monday.
“Also, because of the recent attacks against me from the far left, my support among the conservative Republican base has never been more enthusiastic. I am grateful for their kind expressions of support, however, now is the time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life,” Duncan said in the statement.
“I have decided I wanted to spend less time in airports, airplanes, and traveling around the district and more time with my family, especially my nine grandchildren, who all live in Knoxville. I love my job but I love my family more,” he concluded.
“This isn’t just the end of an era, it’s the end of two eras of Duncan representation in the Knoxville era. And if you look up constituent service in the dictionary you should find a picture of Jimmy Duncan,” media consultant and political analyst Steve Gill tells The Tennnessee Star.
“My grandmother taught Jimmy in 6th grade at Chilhowee Elementary School in Knoxville and several years ago while introducing him at a Lincoln Day dinner in East Tennessee I mentioned that. I then pointed out that if Jimmy gave a great speech she should get the credit; but if it fell short then everybody should remember she only taught him for one year so her influence was limited. Nobody laughed harder than Jimmy, and he gave a great speech that reflected the conservative values he represented so well,” Gill says.
A recent controversy over the number of family members who have been on the campaign payroll may have hastened Duncan’s decision to retire, along with the near certain prospect of a tough primary challenge from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
Last month Burchett, who is term limited in his current job, said he would be running for either Congress or the United States Senate in 2018. Earlier on Monday, Burchett said he would be announcing which office he will be running for on Saturday.
Late Monday, Burchett offered high praise for Duncan, and added that he intended to continue with his plans to make an announcement about his own political future on Saturday.
Almost every Republican in the state who is paying attention expects Burchett to announce his candidacy for the Second Congressional District seat currently held by Duncan.
Burchett would immediately become the front runner to replace Duncan, though there is some speculation that Rep. Duncan’s son, John J. Duncan III, is interested in replacing his father.
That could be a tall order for the younger Duncan, however, as he was forced to resign his seat as Knox County Trustee several years ago in the midst of a financial scandal.
Another potential candidate is State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City), who challenged Speaker Beth Harwell for the House Speaker’s position last year. Others also in the speculation pool are State Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) and Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville).