NASHVILLE - When Tennessee lawmakers return to the state Capitol for their annual session on Jan. 14, they'll be missing yet another longtime colleague.
Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, officially resigned his House seat on New Year's Day, ending a 19-year career that began with his 1994 election. He served stints as chairman of the Commerce Committee as well as the Legislature's Fiscal Review Committee when Democrats held sway.
The 66-year-old pro-business Democrat, a religious conservative, announced in October that he would not seek re-election to House District 43, which includes Grundy, Warren and White counties.
That came following a rough, accusation-filled 2012 general election campaign as the Tennessee Republican Party spent some $40,000 trying to defeat him by linking him with President Barack Obama and contending he backed abortion.
Curtiss, who won the endorsement of anti-abortion rights group Tennessee Right to Life, won by about 700 votes out of 21,000 cast. But Republicans planned to hit him again in 2014 campaigns, and Curtiss said he wouldn't put his family through it.
He later was hired as executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, which lobbies on behalf of counties' interests at the Capitol. Curtiss said in an interview Monday that giving up his seat was a pre-condition for getting the post.
"Legally I didn't have to resign," Curtiss said. "But when they [county officials] finally got through all the hoops and they finally decided to hire me, that was one of the conditions. They said "we didn't want there to be any perceptions that anything is going on wrong so we want you to not be in the Legislature when you take office."
He said he did some "soul searching" and agreed.
Curtiss noted that had he stayed in the Legislature, he had not planned to lobby colleagues. State ethics laws prevent him from lobbying until he's been out of office a year. That allows him to begin lobbying in 2015, which he intends to do.