KNOXVILLE - When U.S. Rep. John Duncan Jr.'s term comes to an end in 2018, it will be the first time in more than 50 years that a Duncan will not be the congressman representing Tennessee's 2nd Congressional District.
Duncan has held the seat since 1988. Before that, his father represented the district for 23 years.
"What I feel best about is all of the many thousands of people that me and my father before me have been able to help in 54 years between the two of us," Duncan said.
On Wednesday, he spoke with WBIR 10News about his decision to not seek reelection, his most memorable moments in Washington and his plans for the future.
"I'm totally at peace about this," Duncan said, speaking about his decision to retire from the U.S. House of Representatives. "I've been very lucky. At the end of this term, I will have had over 30 years in the House. Only two men in the history of Tennessee have had more time in the house than that."
Duncan did file a statement of candidacy with the FEC on June 13, but he told 10News that document is required for him to continue collecting campaign contributions for future political activity, and did not signify he intended to run for his seat again.
Duncan says he has no plans to endorse Burchett, a fellow Republican, but expects more people to announce their candidacy.
"He's the only person who made it clear that he was going to run against me no matter what I did," Duncan said. "I always knew that I was in good enough shape to beat him if I wanted to run."
In February, Duncan raised eyebrows when he refused to hold a town hall meeting, declaring it would be an opportunity for "kooks" to turn out against him.
Today, he explained his reasoning.
"I've always said that I would meet with anyone from my district that wanted to meet with me, and I have continued that," Duncan said. "I told them that I would be glad to meet with them one or two or three at a time but I saw no obligation or no need to try and help them get publicity for far left views."
In July, he drew scrutiny amid reports he'd used campaign funds to employ his eldest son, John Duncan III, for several years. Duncan said his son had ably handled his campaign affairs at a salary lower than he might typically have had to pay.
"I'm fiscally very conservative, and I saved a lot of money for my campaign by paying family members. I really didn't pay them for many years and they did all of this work for free for many years," Duncan said. "If you ever saw what they pay these professional campaign people from Washington, you'd know that I came out way ahead by having my family do some of this work."
In 2002, Duncan voted against entering the Iraq War. To this day, he says that it remains one of the most memorable votes he has cast.
"I wondered if I was ending my political career when I voted against that war," Duncan said. "Slowly, slowly, slowly, after three or four years what had been the most unpopular vote I'd ever cast became the most popular I ever cast."
For the past three decades, Congressman Jimmy Duncan has been a steadfast pillar of politics in East Tennessee.
Even as he retires, the pride he has for the job has not been lost.
"Lou Gehrig said he was the luckiest man in the world," Duncan said. "Maybe he was, but I think I'm a close second."
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