WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, announced Tuesday evening that he will retire from Congress. 

"Thanks to the good Lord, I'm in good health, but it's time for the next step," Poe said in a statement. "I am looking forward to spending more time in Texas, especially with my 12 grandkids who have all been born since I was first elected to Congress. I am proud of the work that my office has accomplished: giving crime victims a voice, helping to combat human trafficking, and fighting for our constitutional rights and individual liberty."

Last week, both U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, announced they would retire from Congress after the ends of their current terms.

Poe is the fifth Texan in Congress to announce this year that he won't seek re-election.

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Republican U.S. Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Richardson and Lamar Smith of San Antonio have also announced their retirements. Smith and Hensarling did so just last week, both pointing to term-limits requiring them to give up chairmanships of high-profile committees as reasons for stepping down.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, is vacating his seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

Poe's 2nd Congressional District takes in parts of west Houston and into the northern suburbs, including Kingwood. The race to replace him will likely keep the seat in Republican hands, but Democrats are keeping an eye on the district in the event of a major wave.

The seat has drawn some Democratic challengers, most notably nonprofit executive Todd Litton, who has held his own against Poe in fundraising in recent months.

First elected to Congress in 2004 and a sixth-generation Texan, Poe is possibly the most personally popular Texan within the U.S. House of Representatives.

With fans on both sides of the aisle, that affection came to light in 2016, when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Colleagues like U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, reacted to the news by wearing orange "Team Poe" wristbands. Even Democrats were known to check in with concern about his health.

“If you look up “Ted Poe” in the dictionary, it says, 'Iconic Texan who loved America, Texas, his family and our Lord,'" Olson said in a statement.

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"God has blessed all of us who call Ted 'friend,'" he added. "If I leave Washington, D.C. as half the Congressman Ted Poe is, I will be a great one. And that’s just the way it is.”

Sources close to the congressman said that while the his health is stabilized, the ordeal did cause the 69-year-old to consider more spending time with his family.

But there were also signs of political frustration earlier this year. Amid congressional Republicans' troubled efforts to move a repeal of former President Obama's 2010 health care law, Poe resigned from the House Freedom Caucus. The group is known to be a thorn in the side of House leadership.

At the time he resigned from the group in late March, he said, "It is time to lead."

A quirky but sincere presence around the Capitol, Poe made criminal justice a signature issue. He built his career as a Harris County prosecutor and a criminal court judge. His off-beat and shame-inducing punishments in that role became known as "Poe-tic justice."

Poe also spent a much of his time on foreign affairs and on immigration. But he is best known to his colleagues as a go-to force on issues like violence against women and human sex trafficking. 

Poe is a near-constant presence on the floor of the U.S. House, delivering so many speeches that he even outpaced U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee — another Houstonian — in the 2009-2011 term. Poe signed off those speeches by invoking Walter Cronkite's famous "CBS Evening News" kicker, and he used it again in his retirement announcement.

"I will continue this work every day until I retire at the end of this term," he said. "And that’s just the way it is.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In March, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe resigned his membership from the Freedom Caucus, a hardline conservative group that helped derail the Obamacare overhaul bill. [Full story]

  • Last year, Poe was diagnosed with leukemia. He talked with the Tribune about¬†his treatment and the support system that was sustaining him. [Full story]

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