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'I'm done': Rep. Mitchell retiring from public life, won't seek office again

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, newly independent of the Republican Party, says he's retiring from public life and won't run for governor of Michigan or any other office.

"I have no intention of running for elected office again," Mitchell said in a Friday interview. "I have disagreements with the governor on a whole range of things, but I’m going to go home and inflict my opinion on my family, who will probably tell me to please shut up."

"It’s the right decision at this point in my life," he added. "In my family."

Mitchell, a former corporate executive, is leaving Congress at the end of his term but hadn't previously revealed his plans for what he'd do next, dodging the question in interviews for months. 

The conservative lawmaker was often mentioned as a potential GOP candidate for governor in Michigan in 2022. Mitchell put that speculation to rest Friday. 

In this image from video, Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. Mitchell said Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 he is leaving the Republican Party and becoming an independent to protest efforts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump.

He said his wife put it most succinctly in a recent discussion in which he was talking about problems in Michigan and all the things that need to be done.

"She said, 'When does it become someone else’s turn? Someone else’s responsibility? When is it enough?'" Mitchell recalled.

"So, I’m packing it up and calling it quits. I don’t know what comes next, besides taking care of the sheep and feeding the chickens." 

Mitchell was referring to the animals on his hobby farm in Dryden, which include 28 sheep.

He appreciates the support from those who wanted him to pursue another office, he said, but to do that would be "a cost to my family, a cost to myself." 

"I can't begin to express to you how difficult it is to say something like 'I'm done,' because I never have been (done) before," Mitchell said. 

"I've really struggled saying this because never in my adult life have I gotten to a point that I don't have objectives, I don't have goals for the future for what I what I'm going to do and tackle. But it's time to just kind of take a breath."

The conservative lawmaker made headlines early this week in announcing his disaffiliation with the GOP, citing his disgust with party leadership's tolerance of President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election. 

Mitchell had been a member of House GOP leadership, but on Monday asked the House clerk to officially change his designation from Republican to independent.

Trump has repeatedly made unproven claims that there was "massive" voter fraud in Michigan's election, but Mitchell for weeks has called on the president to concede for the good of the nation. President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes. 

Mitchell in a letter to GOP officials suggested that party leaders are motivated by "raw political considerations," and not constitutional or election integrity concerns. He fears that the party participating in or staying silent on unfounded conspiracy theories and "stop the steal" rallies will inflict "long-term harm to our democracy."

"They all have failed to stand up and say, 'Stop,'" Mitchell said. 

Per House rules, Mitchell was promptly stripped of his assignments on the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, which he said he expected. 

He announced plans last year to retire from the U.S. House after two terms, citing frustration with political gridlock but also a desire to spend more time with his family. 

His youngest son, who is 10, has special needs and can't attend a traditional school. His family needed more help than what he could provide while shuttling back and forth to Washington, he said. 

Mitchell counts among his House accomplishments the successful push to complete an economic study of the need for a replacement Soo Lock at  Sault Ste. Marie and an engineering study of the project to fortify the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois to block Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes. 

He also continued the fight to prevent the Pentagon from mothballing the A-10 attack aircraft, keeping the planes in service at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base, and was involved in building support for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal that succeeded NAFTA, he said.

Republican businesswoman Lisa McClain of Bruce Township won election last month to fill Mitchell's seat representing the heavily Republican 10th District, which covers a part of northern Macomb County as well as the Thumb counties of  St. Clair, Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer.

mburke@detroitnews.com