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Three U.S. House veterans announce retirements

U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) speaks with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) (obscured) during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington,
U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) speaks with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) (obscured) during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three veteran members of the House of Representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat, announced their retirements just as the 2014 congressional campaign season starts to heat up.

Republican Representatives Frank Wolf of Virginia and Tom Latham of Iowa, along with Democratic Representative Jim Matheson of Utah, made their separate announcements on Tuesday as Congress was winding up its legislative activity for the year.

All three seats are considered competitive in the November, 2014 elections, when Republicans will try to expand their majority in the House and Democrats will attempt to capture control of the 435-member chamber.

Wolf, 74, and Latham, 65, are members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where they chair subcommittees that will work through the holiday season to implement a budget deal expected to be passed by the Senate this week.

Matheson, 53, serves on the House Energy and Commerce panel and is a co-chair of a dwindling group of fiscally conservative Democrats known as "Blue Dogs."

Wolf was first elected in 1980, when Ronald Reagan swept into the White House and many Republicans rode on his coattails. He will serve out his 17th House term that runs through 2014.

"As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom," Wolf said. Throughout his congressional career he was a vocal advocate for human rights in China.

Latham, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement: "It is never a perfect time or a right time to step aside. But for me, this is the time."

Earlier this year, some political observers had speculated that the moderate Latham might run for U.S. Senate to replace retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. Latham decided against the race in his home state, which President Barack Obama carried in the November, 2012 presidential election.

Matheson was re-elected in 2012 with only 49 percent of the vote in his central Utah district, which leans heavily Republican. Matheson has one of the most conservative voting records among House Democrats.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Diane Craft)

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