WOODBURY - Rep. Steve Israel (D - Huntington) will not seek re-election for a ninth term in November, he said in a surprise announcement Tuesday afternoon.

Israel, who has held the seat since 2000, says he wants to pursue new passions and spend time writing his second book.

"I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests," Israel said in a statement. "It has been an incredible and humbling opportunity to serve my community."

The search for a candidate to replace Israel has already begun. Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman, says names are being tossed around within the party.

While Jacobs says he does not yet have a personal favorite, others like Christopher Hahn -- a former aide to Sen. Charles Schumer -- says he sees a strong candidate in Tom Suozzi.

Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chair, says the party will be working overtime over the next few days to find the right candidate.

Israel succeeded Republican Rick Lazio in 2000, and became a member of the Democratic Caucus leadership.