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Six-term Georgia GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, whose recruiting efforts helped Republicans win control of the House in 2010, has announced he'll retire from the House at the end of the year

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WASHINGTON — Six-term Georgia GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, whose recruiting efforts helped Republicans win control of the House in 2010, announced Thursday that he'll retire from the House at the end of the year.

Westmoreland, 65, says "it is time to pass the torch to our next conservative voice" after 12 years on Capitol Hill.

He represents a strongly Republican district in west-central Georgia. He briefly considered a run for speaker amid last fall's GOP leadership turmoil.

Westmoreland serves on the controversial Benghazi committee, and he battled with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton when she testified last year.

He was a building contractor and state representative before his election to Congress in 2014.

Prior to the 2010 elections, Westmoreland and now-Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., went on a lengthy trip to recruit GOP candidates for that year's midterm elections in which Republicans swept to power after four years in the minority. While Westmoreland is strongly conservative, he is not identified as a member of the tea party wing and serves on the GOP leadership's whip team.

His departure means more than 30 House members will have retired by the end of the current term and more announcements are possible. The safely Republican seat could have a crowded primary.

Westmoreland said he made his decision after praying about the decision with his family on his Christmas break. Westmoreland and his wife Joan have been married for 46 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren.

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