House members retiring in Iowa, Virginia and Utah

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By DONNA CASSATA and THOMAS BEAUMONT, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Three veteran House members from Iowa, Virginia and Utah have decided not to seek re-election in 2014, offering both parties an opportunity to gain a seat or two.

Retirement announcements came Tuesday from Rep. Tom Latham, a 10-term Iowa Republican from the Des Moines area; Rep. Frank Wolf, a 17-term Republican from northern Virginia; and Rep. Jim Matheson, a seven-term lawmaker from Utah.

Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to take control of the House. Republicans insist that they will maintain their majority and even gain seats in the 2014 congressional elections as Obama's struggles and the troubled rollout of the health care law weigh down Democrats.

Latham, 65, a close friend of House Speaker John Boehner and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, had been heavily courted by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to seek the Senate seat being vacated by retiring five-term Democrat Tom Harkin. Latham declined to run.

In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama carried by 4 percentage points Latham's district, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by roughly 7,000 and independents by roughly 4,000.

"It's a bombshell politically in Iowa," said veteran Iowa Republican strategist and fundraiser Doug Gross of Des Moines. "It throws open a congressional seat in a very, very important district."

Wolf, 74, had long been the subject of retirement speculation because his district had become increasingly Democratic during his 34 years in the House. Younger and more demographically diverse voters flocked to Northern Virginia in recent decades and helped Obama carry the state in 2008 and 2012.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called Wolf's district "a toss-up" as it looked ahead to 2014.

The retirement of Matheson, 53, one of the more conservative Democrats in the House and the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, marked his Utah seat a potential pickup for Republicans. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the district with 68 percent of the vote last year.

After Matheson's announcement, Obama said in a statement: "He has been a forceful advocate of our nation's veterans and worked to strengthen our economy through his support of key trade agreements."

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Cassata reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Des Moines contributed to this report.

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