By Molly O'Toole
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has wished retiring Michigan Representative Dale Kildee well after Kildee announced he would not seek re-election to a 19th term.
The Democratic congressman from Flint, Michigan, was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1976 after serving in the Michigan legislature.
"For more than 30 years, Dale Kildee has never forgotten the people he represents or what drives his work in the United States Congress," Obama said in a statement late on Friday.
"We will miss Dale's voice in Congress."
Kildee, 81, is among three U.S. House members from Michigan in their 80s.
Speculation over the future of his recently redrawn and heavily Democratic district has already begun, The Detroit Free Press reported on Saturday.
"Now that the new congressional maps have been approved by the Michigan state Legislature, I am confident that the 5th District will remain in Democratic hands and that it is an appropriate time to announce my retirement," Kildee said in his Friday statement on his decision, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Local media suggested Kildee will support a potential replacement by his nephew, former county treasurer Dan Kildee.
"I'm sure you can probably guess my leanings," the elder Kildee told the Detroit News.
Because of redistricting, Kildee has represented several Congressional districts over the years, according to his website.
A former teacher, he earned a reputation in Congress as a champion of education.
Kildee served as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
"As a teacher, state legislator and Congressman, Dale made fighting for the families he represents his top priority and worked to improve education in Michigan and across the nation," Obama stated.
Kildee has said there are three ways to leave Congress, according to the Detroit News: "You can be thrown out, carried out or walk out."
(Reporting by Molly O'Toole; Editing by Jerry Norton)