NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Politics might not be rocket science, but a central New Jersey Democratic congressman who is a rocket scientist is retiring from the House after eight terms.

Rush Holt went to Congress 16 years ago, brimming with optimism. And that hasn’t changed, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports.

“Actually I don’t think anybody should be at this business if they’re not optimistic,” Holt said.

But as a physicist, he’s been frustrated by a lack of rational decision-making.

“There should be this idea of evidence-based thinking that is the underpinning of all our public decisions, but it’s not,” he said.

Holt said he feels Washington isn’t the same.

“It has become more politically partisan,” he said.

Despite skepticism about those in power, he sees good people.

“I do think that most members who serve in Congress are honorable and altruistic and hardworking and smart,” he told Haskell.

The Democrat who represents central New Jersey’s 12th District announced his decision not to run for re-election in November with an email to constituents.

Holt holds a doctorate in physics. Before joining Congress in 1999, he had a career in academia. He beat the IBM computer Watson in a Jeopardy challenge in 2011.

Holt ran for the U.S. Senate last year to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg but lost in the primary to Cory Booker.

His retirement ensures major changes in New Jersey’s congressional delegation next year.

The 66-year-old will take the helm of a large science organization.

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