Calif. Rep. Lantos Won't Seek Re-Election

Tom Lantos, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stands next to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during a press conference at Damascus airport, Syria, Wednesday April 4, 2007. Pelosi held talks with Syria's president Wednesday despite White House objections, saying she pressed Bashar Assad over Syrian support for militant groups and passed him a peace message from Israel's prime minister. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
AP Photo/Hussein Malla
Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this year because he has cancer of the esophagus.

Lantos, 79, a California Democrat and chairman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee since the beginning of 2007, is known for his dedication to human rights issues. He is serving his 14th term as a House member. Lantos' Bay area-based 12th district leans strongly Democratic, though he has faced primary challenges in the past from the left.

"It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress," Lantos, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, said in a statement. "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

In 1944, as a teenager, he was sent to a labor camp but eventually escaped.