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Rep. Diane Watson announces retirement, declines to endorse successor [Updated]

February 11, 2010 |  5:25 pm


Ending more than three decades of public service, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson announced Thursday morning that she would step down from her congressional seat at the end of this term.

She declined to endorse a successor.

“I appreciate the trust … that you have placed in me,” said Watson, speaking at a Los Angeles news conference, flanked by community leaders including L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, school board member Marguerite LaMotte and the Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray.

Watson, a Democrat, said she was leaving to spend “quality time” with her mother, who just turned 100 and recently broke her hip.

The announcement capped a political career that began when she was the first black woman elected to the LAUSD school board and culminated with her election to the 33rd Congressional District. She was also the first black woman elected to the state Senate, in 1978.

Watson’s term ends in December. She said she wanted to look at all of the candidates in the race to succeed her before deciding whom to endorse.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) is widely expected to run for the seat but has declined to say whether she will do so.

[Updated at 5:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Watson represented the 37th Congressional District.]

-- Jean Merl

Photo: Rep. Diane Watson reaches out to a well-wisher after she announced her retirement at her office on Wilshire Boulevard. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times