AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas congressional delegation will have several new faces after the 2018 election. Several longtime representatives have announced their plans to retire at the end of their terms.
“It’s just a really unpredictable time in politics right now,” said Lauren McGaughy, the Austin bureau reporter for The Dallas Morning News. Halfway through the filing period for primary elections in Texas, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, announced he would not run for re-election after a nude photo of him surfaced on Twitter and inappropriate comments he made to a female activist were revealed on social media.
Barton is the latest in a series of Texas congressmen who have announced they will not run in 2018. Currently, seven of the state’s 36 congressional seats will be open in next year’s election cycle. The seats open are:
- Gene Green (D), District 29
- Jeb Hensarling (R), District 5
- Sam Johnson (R), District 3
- Beto O’Rourke (D), District 16
- Ted Poe (R), District 2
- Lamar Smith (R), District 21
- Joe Barton (R), District 6
The retirements include some of the most senior members of the Texas delegation. Barton and Smith were first elected in the 1980s. “It’s interesting because they are sort of swapping seniority, which on Capitol Hill is a big deal. People have been there a long time and they have built up a lot of power and a lot of clout for new faces,” said Will Weissert, who leads the Austin bureau for The Associated Press.
Although new faces could bring new ideas to the table, both parties risk losing the pull amongst voters that longtime politicians like Barton; Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; and Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, garnered over the decades. Despite this, Weissert doesn’t believe seats will flip parties.
“People in the [Texas] legislature that are conservative [might] go up to Washington and make a very conservative delegation even more so,” Weissert said. “Even though we’re going to have seven races, the two that are Democrat are probably going to stay in Democratic hands and the five Republicans are also probably going to stay in Republican hands barring some other major scandal.”
Democrats could miss out on opportunities to gain ground. With just days to go in the filing period, the party still does not have a big name in the 2018 race for governor.
“If you’ve got nothing or [unknown] candidate[s] up at the top of th[e] ticket, it makes [campaigning] very, very difficult,” Weissert said, citing a historical lack of Democratic gubernatorial candidates since 1994.
Reports that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, D-Dallas, might join the race for governor could bring help for Democrats. Although Valdez’ chances of winning are low, she could encourage higher turnout among the Hispanic and Latino population who make an estimated 28 percent of the eligible voting population according to the Pew Research Center.
“I think that they’re hoping if she does run that… she might bring out the vote that will help the Beto O’Rourke’s of the world,” McGaughy said.