Just months into his third term, State Rep. Joe Hackett (R., Delaware) is resigning, effective April 30. The announcement was made late Thursday.

Hackett - who before holding the seat had a 26-year career in law enforcement - said he is exploring plans to return to the Delaware County District Attorney's Office criminal division, according to the statement.

"Coming from a family of blue bloods - my grandfather, wife, father-in-law, two brothers-in-law, and three nephews - I've realized law enforcement is not just a career. It's a calling," Hackett said in the statement.

Republicans say Hackett's resignation came naturally, as he wants to return to a hands-on career he is passionate about. Democrats say the timing of the decision let Republicans hold onto a seat they gained a little more than four years ago.

Hackett's seat in the 161st District is highly competitive, both parties say, and has changed hands among Republicans and Democrats regularly in the last few decades.

"I find the timing odd, to say the least," said David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Committee. "If he had been as restless as the news release says, it's something that he would have known last election."

In November 2014, Hackett defeated Leanne Krueger-Braneky, a Swarthmore businesswoman running for the first time.

"Now the timing is such that the Republicans get to dictate when and how we replace him," Landau said.

Under the Pennsylvania constitution, Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Alleghany) will designate the date of the special election. It cannot be held until at least 60 days after Hackett's resignation.

Special elections traditionally are expensive for counties and do not yield high turnout.

Nominations will be made by the parties, rather than through a primary, said Andrew Reilly, chairman of the county Republican Party. The winner will serve out Hackett's term.

Reilly said Hackett often talked about how he loved his job as a policeman.

"He loved representing the district," Reilly said. "But I don't think being in Harrisburg three or four days a week was something he enjoyed."

Hackett, a longtime resident of Ridley Township, is married and has two children. He could not be reached for further comment Friday.

He was first elected in 2010 with 53 percent of the vote. He initially bid for the seat in 2008, but lost to Bryan Lentz, who now works as an attorney.

Hackett served 20 years with the Ridley Township Police Department, where he rose to corporal.

He then was a detective with the district attorney's criminal investigation division and has been on a leave of absence, under the bargaining agreement, since 2010.

cmccabe@philly.com

610-313-8113 @mccabe_caitlin