HARRISBURG - After 22 years, state House Representative Jerry Birmelin last Thursday said he would not seek re-election Birmelin had become a shoe-in on the two year cycle. He had not faced a Democratic challenger since 1992. In a brief statement, the Lake Ariel resident and former teacher highlighted family concerns as the central reason of his decision. “My key consideration is that of my family. My family is my most important concern and with all the time I have spent away from home in the performance of my duties in Harrisburg, I have missed much of what most people enjoy with their children and grandchildren. I want to be able to invest more of my time in their lives while I still have the energy and ability to do so.” While the decision was generally greeted with, two Republican primary opponents nonetheless announced their candidacies less than a week before Birmelin’s withdrawal. “I didn’t know of it beforehand,” said Pike Treasurer Mike Peifer. “I don’t think it affects me too much. I’m running a grassroots campaign, taking it to the people. That hasn’t changed,” he said. Greene Township resident Margaret Mitchener, 52, announced on Jan. 24. She said her outrage over last year’s legislative pay raise spurred her to make her first run for office. But the real surprise was left to be handled by the Democrats. Pike Committee member Elizabeth Forest said the county committee met on the night of Birmelin’s announcement. “It caught a lot of people by surprise. No one had considered candidates. I don’t think there would have been a race if (Birmelin) had run,” she said. Since then, she said Ed Kostal, of Price Township in Monroe has expressed interest and, she added, “There is Art Frey.” Frey is the Newfoundland Funeral Director, the Democrat who last ran against Birmelin in 1992. In addition to Birmelin’s departure, long-time state Senator Charles Lemmond is not seeking re-election. Peifer described the upcoming primary election year as exciting, right up to the open gubernatorial race. “Usually these spots are selected, (but) nobody selected Bill Scranton and Lynn Swann,” he said.