During a news conference Sunday morning, Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins announced that he is resigning his congressional seat. The Buffalo native has been in Congress since 2005.
Multiple sources tell Capital Tonight that Higgins has signed a contract to take a new position with Buffalo's Shea's Performing Arts Center.
"I’ve always been a little impatient, and that trait has helped us deliver remarkable progress for this community," Higgins said Sunday. "But the pace in Washington, D.C. can be slow and frustrating, especially this year. Therefore, after thoughtful consideration, I have made the difficult decision to leave Congress and explore other ways I can build up and serve Buffalo and Western New York."
Higgins plans to leave Congress the first week of February in 2024, as he says bipartisanship in Washington has diminished.
“That idea of crossover appeal has been replaced with performative, audacious behavior which makes a mockery of the institution of Congress," he said.
Higgins said he wants to come back to serve the city of Buffalo, although he has yet to confirm what that will look like.
“Young people are coming back here, our economy is diversified," Higgins said. "That work must continue, but it will continue without me representing this community in Congress."
The resignation comes as the balance of power in the House of Representatives is just five seats. Higgins’ district, which includes Buffalo and its suburbs, voted for Joe Biden in 2020 by 27 points and is considered a safe Democratic seat. An open seat in this district could see multiple high profile Democrats like Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown or state Sen. Tim Kennedy throw their hat in the ring.
“Too often elected officials chase the twenty-four-hour news cycle, focusing on the issue of the day, and when you look back there is little to show for it," Higgins said. "We have been deliberate in taking a different approach – committed to finding a focus, fighting for what really matters in the lives of people here in Western New York, and getting things done. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished: steadfast service to veterans, lifesaving flight safety measures, record bipartisan infrastructure and Great Lakes investments, a major increase in the nation’s commitment to fighting cancer, a transformation of our waterfront, and the list goes on. Over the years we’ve put the people of Buffalo-Niagara first and changed Western New York for the better."
Brown put out a statement Friday praising Higgins for his work in Congress and left the door open for his own future.
“When the appropriate time comes, I look forward to a conversation about the future of this very diverse district so it can meet the needs of all of our residents," Brown said.
Senator Tim Kennedy also released a statement praising Higgins' work over the better part of the past two decades.
"Over the last 19 years, Congressman Brian Higgins has revolutionized the way the nation sees Buffalo. He has transformed our city’s waterfront, delivered historic investments for Western New York’s infrastructure and transportation networks, secured critical funding for our medical corridor and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and served as a key conduit between businesses and the endless opportunities that exist across our region. His work in Washington and Western New York will be remembered for what it was: strategic, innovative, and at its core, always focused on why we do what we do as public servants: help people.
On a personal level, I’m grateful to the Congressman for his years of guidance, collaboration, and friendship. Wherever this next chapter takes Brian Higgins, I look forward to seeing him continue to deliver for the people who call this region home."
Se. Sean Ryan also released a statement thanking Higgins.
"Congressman Brian Higgins has served the people of Buffalo and Western New York with distinction as a member of the Common Council, the State Assembly, and for nearly two decades as our Representative in Congress. Throughout his historic career he has been an integral part of the transformation of our region. From waterfront development, to the preservation of our historic architecture, to game-changing infrastructure improvements, Congressman Higgins has always been at the forefront of progress. On issues of great national importance like safeguarding Social Security and Medicare, lowering healthcare costs, protecting our environment, and so much more, we have always been able to count on Congressman Higgins to fight for Western New York families. I have enjoyed working with Congressman Higgins throughout my time in office, and I know his leadership will be missed. As he is set to begin a new chapter, I wish Congressman Higgins, his staff, and his family well, and thank him for a job well done.”
"The Buffalo-Niagara region is a place like none other, a home known for its neighborly heart, a small city with big offerings, and a region with a bright future. I am incredibly proud to have played a role in Western New York’s transformation and forever grateful for the opportunity to represent the good people of New York’s 26th Congressional District," Higgins said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has 10 days from being notified of a vacancy to announce a special election, which has to then take place within 80 days.