Republican U.S. Representative Chip Pickering announced Thursday that he won't seek a seventh term in 2008. His decision is expected to create a free-for-all contest for a rare, open congressional seat in Mississippi.
Pickering says he wants to spend more time being a father to his five sons, ages 8 to 17. He, his wife Leisha and their sons live in rural Madison County.
Pickering was first elected in 1996, when longtime Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, a conservative Democrat, chose not to run after 40 years in office.
Pickering's current congressional district makes a diagonal through from southwest to east central Mississippi, stretching from the Louisiana border up through the Jackson area and over to the Alabama border.
In 2003, Pickering turned down the chance to become a million-dollar-a-year lobbyist for the Washington-based Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.