Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in 2016.
Neugebauer, who has represented his West Texas district in Congress since 2003, plans to finish his current term.
"To say that this has been an honor would be an understatement," Neugebauer said in a statement. "Representing the citizens of the Big Country and West Texas has been one of the most rewarding times in my life."
Neugebauer, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, said health concerns had nothing to do with his decision.
"I feel great and I am cancer free," he said. "The bottom line is that I really think this is the right time for my family and me to have more time together."
During his service in the U.S. House, Neugebauer kept a relatively low profile. He did generate headlines in the heat of the 2010 health care debate. On the House floor, he shouted “baby-killer” during a debate related to abortion. Neugebauer apologized for the incident.
Buzz had been mounting in recent months that Neugebauer was planning to retire. Texas' Congressional District 19 is expected to stay in Republican hands, and the primary will all but determine who will follow Neugebauer in Congress.
Immediate speculation for possible successors centered on state Sen. Charles Perry and state Rep. Dustin Burrows — both Lubbock Republicans — as well as Lubbock attorney Allen Adkins. Other names include Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson; Tom Sell, the managing partner of Combest, Sell and Associates; and former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington.
Perry does not plan to run for the seat, according to Jordan Berry, his political consultant.
Asked about his interest in the seat, Burrows issued a statement that did not rule out a run.
"Today is Congressman Neugebauer’s day to enjoy the knowledge that he’ll no longer need to commute to Washington, D.C., and to revel in a career protecting West Texas from an overreaching federal government," Burrows said. "On behalf of West Texans and the Burrows family, we thank him for his service to our nation."
Neugebauer, 65, won the seat in a 2003 special election to replace Larry Combest, another Lubbock Republican. Neugebauer previously served on the Lubbock City Council, including a stint as mayor pro tempore.
The last time that an incumbent Texas Republican left a U.S. House seat was in 2014, when Steve Stockman vacated his East Texas seat to run for U.S. Senate.
Tea Party groups have struggled to oust federal incumbents in Texas, and organizations like the Madison Project say they see an opportunity in open-seat races like this one now is, setting up a potential clash between the Tea Party and an establishment candidate.
“I think the Washington establishment is always going to get want who they think they can get, and the local establishment is going to want who they want, and it will not always gel with the Washington establishment,” Berry said.
“The conservative base may want something completely different,” he added. “This could go several different ways.”
This primary will also take place on March 1, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative favorite, is poised to be on the ballot in the presidential race. Neugebauer’s son Toby has emerged as one of the top donors to Cruz’s presidential effort, giving $10 million to a super PAC supporting the senator. Toby Neugebauer, co-founder of the Houston private-equity firm Quantum Energy Partners, was recently replaced by evangelical leader David Barton as the head of a cluster of pro-Cruz groups.