In a statement, Royce called it "truly an honor" to represent his Orange County district, and said that in his final year leading the foreign affairs panel, he wants to "focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin's continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia."
"With this in mind, and with the support of my wife Marie, I have decided not to seek reelection in November," Royce said.
Royce marks the seventh House GOP committee chairman who opted to retire or run for other office this cycle in what is shaping up to be a challenging midterm election year for Republicans. Democrats need to pick up 24 House seats to retake the majority from Republicans.
Royce's district has shifted rapidly to the left. Hillary Clinton won it by 9 percentage points in the 2016 election. But Royce, who has $3.5 million in his campaign account, has proven a tough target -- winning by 15 points in 2016. With Royce out of the way, the six Democratic candidates -- including former $266 million lottery winner Gil Cisneros -- stand a much stronger shot at defeating a Republican who doesn't have the advantage of incumbency.
Democrats' path to a House majority runs through California, where the party is targeting seven GOP-held seats that Clinton carried in 2016.
Royce was campaigning for a 14th term and was first elected to Congress in 1992.
Royce's wife, Marie Royce, was recently nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as an assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
A Republican operative said the party has several potential recruits to replace Royce, several of whom are Asian American -- a key demographic in the region.
Among them: former Orange County GOP chairman Scott Baugh; former Royce staffer and state assemblywoman Young Kim; former state senate minority leader Bob Huff; Orange County supervisor Michelle Park Steel; assemblyman Philip Chen; and former assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang, who is currently running in a recall election for a state senate seat.