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U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, a Democrat in his 12th term, announced Saturday that he won't seek re-election next year.

"It is time for me . . . to move on to other challenges," Studds told about 200 supporters at the Old Whaling Church in this Martha's Vineyard town.He said he had been considering leaving Congress since the summer of 1992, when his district was redrawn, but decided to stay through President Clinton's current term.

Studds, 58, is one of two openly gay members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation; the other is Barney Frank. Studds was first elected to Congress in 1972. In 1983, he was censured by the House for having sex with a young man who had served as a congressional page; despite the bad publicity, Studds kept on winning re-election.

Studds said he had no plans yet for another career but said, "the possibilities are endless."

He said his departure was unrelated to the Republican agenda sweeping the Congress.

"Had the political cataclysm of last fall not occurred, we would still be standing here today," he said.

Nevertheless, Studds blasted the Republicans' agenda, accusing them of using a "wrecking ball" against Medicaid, Medicare and funding for the environment, arts and humanities.

He said the Republican program left him feeling "somewhere between incredulous and nauseous."

Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., said Studds had been frustrated ever since Republicans gained control of Congress in the November 1994 elections.

"It's no secret that the turn of events in Washington has taken a toll on everybody in the delegation," Meehan said.

When the Democrats led Congress, Studds was chairman of a subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife and oceans, a panel important to his Cape Cod district. Under the GOP, not only was he stripped of his chairmanship, the subcommittee was eliminated altogether.

Studds said several of his colleagues had urged him to run again.

Currently, there are 233 Republicans in Congress, 199 Democrats, one independent member and two vacancies. Eleven other members - eight Democrats and three Republicans - have already said they plan to retire or seek other office next year.