Today's THV spoke with him by phone from Washington D.C.
Berry says, "I have had developments in my own personal health since of the first of the year that have changed my life considerably and is probably going to be changed some more. It is not life threatening."
Fellow Democrats call him an unwavering advocate for Arkansas' seniors, service men and women, farmers and families. He spent his career working for better drug coverage and more affordable prescriptions. Recently though, he's been frustrated with the health care debate.
Berry explains, "I don't know if I have lost hope. It gets discouraging at times, but the American people always seem to rise to the occasion and I think that will happen this time too."
Mariah Hatta with the Arkansas Democratic Party promises solid candidates. She says, "We all need to come together but we will continue to hold these two seats and not to worry but we do have a lot of work as we would have had if we had our incumbents."
Berry is the sixth Democrat to leave in the last two months, but the first since the party's special election loss in Massachusetts last Tuesday.
Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb says, "Conservatives and Republicans throughout the state are fired up. They are tired of what has been going on in Washington. They are concerned about health care and the health care scheme and they are ready to make a major change."
A Democrat has held the seat since 1875, but Berry adds it's perfectly possible this time for his party to lose.
In a statement released Monday morning, Berry says he is at "perfect peace" with his decision and that he looks forward to returning home to Arkansas.
The 67-year-old was first elected to his congressional seat after serving in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president for agricultural trade and food assistance.
In 2008, he was re-elected without opposition. This year, he faced opposition from Republican Rick Crawford, who owns a regional agricultural radio network.
Learn more about Congressman Marion Berry on his website.
Congressman Berry's statement:
Washington, D.C. - After serving Arkansas's First Congressional District for 7 terms, Congressman Marion Berry (D-AR, 1st) announced today in the following statement that he would not seek reelection in 2010.
"Since 1997, the people of the First Congressional District of Arkansas have entrusted me to serve them in Washington. It has been an honor I have never taken for granted and for their support I will be eternally grateful. After much prayer and consideration, I have decided it is time for me to return home to Arkansas. The people deserve a representative who has the ability to rise to the numerous challenges that face our state and our nation. As a lifelong farmer, time has taken its toll on my health and I am no longer able to serve the district with the vitality I once possessed. Therefore, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2010. I am at perfect peace with this decision and look forward to returning to the farm and my home state of Arkansas."
During his time in Congress, Representative Berry has served on the House Agriculture Committee, the Budget Committee and in 2003 he was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee where he currently serves on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Transportation Housing and Urban Development subcommittees.
Congressman Berry was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1996. Berry, a lifelong resident of Arkansas County, has been recognized for his effective leadership on a range of national issues while fulfilling his commitment to faithfully represent the citizens of the First Congressional District of Arkansas in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Representative Mike Ross of Prescott issued the following statement in response to U.S. Representative Marion Berry's announcement today that he will retire at the end of this year:
"I have enjoyed serving in the U.S. House of Representatives with Marion for the past ten years. He and Carolyn are dear friends and I'll miss his common sense approach and the straight talk he brought to Washington. However, I totally respect his decision and wish him and his family all the best in the years ahead. I am committed to working with Marion on the issues important to Arkansas for the remainder of this year."
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