U.S. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey to retire from Congress

FILE PHOTO: Chairwoman Lowey speaks during House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Nita Lowey, the first woman to chair the powerful House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, said on Thursday she will not seek re-election next year.

Lowey, 82, is serving her sixteenth term in the House. She was first elected in 1988, representing a district including suburbs of New York City.

She has been the top Democrat on the appropriations panel, which oversees government spending, since 2013, first as ranking Democrat and as the panel's chairwoman since January.

Lowey's district is solidly Democratic and her departure could lead to a heated primary battle.

She had faced her first primary challenge in decades this year, one of a handful of Democratic House committee chairs targeted in next year's elections by candidates further to the left.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)