HARRISBURG The General Assembly is losing one of its respected elder statesman, a conservative Republican who was a straight-talking and impassioned opponent of legalized gambling.
Republican State Rep. Paul Clymer, in his 34th year representing upper Bucks County, said last week that he will retire after his term ends later this year.
Clymer, 76, had also announced his retirement in 2010 but changed his mind. Now, he said, his tenure in office, combined with 16 years in the private sector and two in the military, made it time to move on.
"That's 52 years in the workplace. I'd say that's enough," Clymer joked Friday. "I've reached an age when you have to start considering what else you want to do in your life."
Clymer, whose district includes Quakertown and Perkasie, was first elected in 1980. In recent years, he served as chairman of the House Education Committee and as a member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee.
He was known in government as a man of conviction who would stand up for his principles but listen to those who opposed him.
"Whether you agreed or disagreed, everybody respected him," said Charlie Gerow, a longtime Harrisburg Republican consultant who has known Clymer for decades. "He was as straight a shooter as you could ever find."
It was Clymer's fierce opposition to gambling that earned him widespread recognition. As the fight to legalize table games and video poker wound their way through the legislature several years ago, Clymer spoke frequently and loudly about their consequences.
"This is a blueprint for financial disaster - and a social one," he said in 2009, referring to a proposal to legalize video poker machines.
Even after gambling was legalized and casinos proliferated around the state, Clymer continued his crusade by introducing legislation three times that would require casinos to send monthly statements to customers who had won or lost more than $500.
None of the bills passed.
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, a fellow Bucks County Republican, said Clymer was "a role model for me."
"When you went to Paul, you know he'd give you an honest answer," DiGirolamo said. "He was a man of his word."
Pat Poprik, chairwoman of the Bucks County Republican Committee, said, "We will all miss Paul's guidance."
Poprik said there is not a succession plan in place yet.
Clymer said he was looking forward to activities such as traveling, particularly to historical sites around the country, and visiting collectible and antique shows.