After more than three decades of public service, prominent politician Diane Watson has decided to retire from Congress at the end of the year. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass is widely expected to run for the seat, but Watson declined to endorse a successor.
"I appreciate the trust…that you have placed in me," said Watson on Thursday. "I owe my constituency, my supporters, a great deal of gratitude for allowing me to represent them."
Watson said she was stepping down to spend more time with her 100-year-old mother, who recently broke her hip.
The 76-year-old politician was an ambassador to Micronesia during the Clinton administration.
She was also the first black woman to serve on the Los Angeles Unified School District board. Her election in 1975 came at a time of racial friction over mandatory school busing.
She was elected to the state Senate in 1978, serving until 1998. She was first elected to Congress in 2001.
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.
Bass issued a statement calling Watson a mentor and praising her for fighting for better schools and health care in the district, which covers a swath of Los Angeles County running from Culver City to the Hollywood section in Los Angeles.
Bass is the first black woman to hold the speaker's post in Sacramento, and she is leaving the Assembly at the end of 2010.