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Two Democrats join exodus from U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, a physicist who has advocated strongly for research funding and environmental conservation, has decided not to seek a further term in the U.S. House of Representatives in elections in November, Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday.

Another Democratic House member, California's Gloria Negrete McLeod, 72, also said she would be retiring after one term and returning to local politics in San Bernardino.

Forty-four members of the House and Senate have said they will be leaving Congress this year, including 24 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

Holt, 65, who has served eight terms in the House, lost a primary race last year to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg. His New Jersey district is solidly Democratic and appeared likely to be retained by the party in November.

Holt is a former professor who competed in the popular TV quiz show "Jeopardy!". His supporters produced a bumper sticker which read: "My Congressman IS a rocket scientist!"

Pelosi said in a statement that from 2007 to 2011 Holt had "served with distinction as the Chairman of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, acting to ensure that Americans' civil liberties were safeguarded, their rights respected, and their security preserved."

(Reporting by David Storey; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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