In a surprise move, Rhode Island House GOP Leader Blake Filippi of New Shoreham is not seeking re-election after four terms.

The announcement by Filippi’s successor as Republican leader, Rep. Michael Chippendale of Foster, stunned state representatives close to 11 pm Thursday on the last day of the 2022 legislative session.

Lawmakers responded with an outpouring of affection for Filippi, who was praised for his conviction, his knowledge of bills, his rhetorical ability and other qualities.

“Blake, you and I have always been very good friends and we have completely opposite views,” said Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-East Providence), the Democratic whip. “But that has never stopped you from respecting me …. I feel like I learned so much from you.”

Filippi was considered a likely GOP candidate for governor last year, but he later ruled that out, and he was to face his first Democratic challenger, Tina Spears, since first winning office in 2014.

The reason for Filippi’s decision was not clear -- and he didn’t address that in brief remarks thanking his fellow representatives.

“I’m so thankful of the relationships I have formed in this room,” Filippi said, his voice filled with emotion. “They are the most meaningful that I’ve had -- they are.”

Flippi thanked his constituents for voting for him, his caucus of Republicans for supporting him, and Democrats for their friendship.

“The art of politics, as is the art of life, it is who we meet and the relationships along the way that count. It has been an honor to serve with every one of you and to be your friend.”

Later, in an email to constituents, Filippi elaborated on his thinking: "Now having served in the General Assembly for eight years, nearly 20% of my life, I have struggled about whether to seek another term in office. The time is now to step aside and for new public servants step up and serve our communities in the House. While I will not run for reelection, I intend to remain deeply engaged in our beautiful corner of the world."

The warm remarks from the Democrats who hold 65 of 75 seats in the House were all the more striking since Filippi led a lawsuit against the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, the hiring and spending arm of the legislature.

Rep. David Place (R-Burrillville) will succeed Chippendale as GOP whip.

Filippi first ran for the House as an independent with a distinctive background -- a lawyer and libertarian who raised organic cattle at a farm in Lincoln. He became a Republican after signing on later as GOP whip. His father, Paul, was known for running the Celebrity Club, a bygone jazz club in Providence, that welcomed Blacks during in mid-century America.