One-on-one: Rep. Jackie Speier explains why it's time to 'pass the torch'

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) announced on Tuesday that she will not run for reelection in 2022 after nearly 40 years of public service becoming the latest House Democrat to bow out of Congress ahead of what is expected to be a difficult election year for the party. 

"It's bittersweet," she told KTVU in a one-on-one interview shortly after she announced her decision first on Twitter. "But it's time to pass the torch to another generation." 

She said that she feels there is a time for everyone to retire, and after 38 years in public life, she has made great gains on issues she has been passionate about: Namely holding those accountable in the military for sexual assault and supporting the abortion rights movement. 

Plus, she said, her husband has been "tapping me on the shoulder" for a while now, saying "it's time for you to come home." 

Speier has had a long career in elected office that began 1980 when she won a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. She went on to serve in both chambers of California’s state legislature before entering the U.S. House in 2008.

In 1978, while she was serving as an aide to the late Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), Speier survived being shot five times during a fact-finding mission to Jonestown in Guyana. Ryan was killed during that trip.

In a statement, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David J. Canepa called Speier a hero. 

"One word sums up Jackie Speier and that is ‘fearless’," Canepa said. "She is truly a hero for the ages. She endured tragedy after tragedy as a human and never wavered, never gave up on herself, her family or the constituents she serves. Her name is almost synonymous with San Mateo County and her legacy will forever endure in my mind."

Speier is the ninth House Democrat to announce retirement plans ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when the party will have to defend its razor-thin majority in the lower chamber. A half-dozen other Democratic members are running for other offices next year.

San Francisco political columnist Joe Garofoli said there will indeed be a "bloodbath" to hold onto Democratic seats in the next elections, but he added that Speier's district that include San Mateo County and San Francisco has no danger of becoming Republican.

He did note, however, that several Bay Area political leaders, such as Rep. Zoe Lofgren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now in their 70s or 80s and will also likely be retiring in the short-term. 

As for who might want to run for Speier's seat? 

Garofoli speculated state Sen. Josh Becker or assembly members Ash Kalra, Alex Lee, Evan Low or someone from the San Mateo County supervisors might want her spot. 

Speier said that she plans to be active in civic life, helping other Democrats win around the country. But for now, she's ready to spend more time with family, including her husband, children and friends. 

"There are more chapters in my life book," she said.