Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation

Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation
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With Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Week ahead: House GOP looks to revamp Energy Department Republicans on the run: Retirements could be trouble for Trump and party MORE’s decision to not seek re-election earlier this week, the number of voluntary retirements among Texas U.S. House members has climbed to a record seven. The result will be the most dramatic change in the delegation’s composition in the past 20 years. 

The seven representatives who have announced their decision to not seek re-election in 2018 are Republicans Joe Barton, Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingBanks rack up big wins in Trump’s Washington Issa retiring from Congress Overnight Finance: Trump promises farmers 'better deal' on NAFTA | Clock ticks to shutdown deadline | Dems worry Trump pressuring IRS on withholdings | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm MORE, Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonNew chairmen named for health, tax subcommittees Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill MORE, Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeWith coordinated US action, Iran's expansionist strategy will backfire Overnight Defense: Judge orders Pentagon to accept transgender recruits on Jan. 1 | Trump eyes sending American astronauts back to moon | GOP reps want Iran sanctions over Yemen war GOP lawmakers call for Iran sanctions over its role in Yemen MORE and Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithHouse GOP chair blasts media for saying 's---hole' while reporting on Trump Issa retiring from Congress House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire MORE, along with Democrats Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenLawmakers say they're close to deal on CHIP funding Congress should stand for rural America by enhancing broadband connectivity Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation MORE and Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeOvernight Health Care: House Dems sound alarm over HHS pick | Trump takes new tack to weaken ObamaCare | Koch-backed groups push to ease access to experimental drugs House Dems sound alarm about Trump health nominee Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation MORE.

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In addition to these seven voluntary retirements, it is possible that the final number of representatives not returning to D.C. in 2019 could rise as high as 10 due to three potential electoral defeats in November, while none of the 29 incumbents running appear to be at risk of losing in their primary.

 

In San Antonio, Republican Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdBipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House GOP Rep. Mia Love calls Trump's 's---hole' comment racist: 'I can't defend the indefensible' Don’t bother with GOP DACA bill – Trump already has a winning plan MORE is the most vulnerable incumbent, having won by a narrow margin in both 2014 (2.1 percent) and 2016 (1.3 percent). On somewhat safer ground, although still vulnerable if an anti-Trump blue wave sweeps across Texas, are John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonRepublicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks House GOP super PAC expands field offices to 27 districts Seven primary races to watch in 2018 MORE in Houston and Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsAfghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate GOP angst over midterms grows Gold Star father attacked by Trump steps up role in Dem primaries MORE in Dallas. 

Focusing on the seven confirmed retirements, their departure will result in four noteworthy changes to the composition of the Texas delegation.

The retirements will result in a younger delegation, with a notable increase in the representation of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and a notable decrease in the representation of the Baby Boomer (1946-1964) and Silent (1928-1945) Generations. Five of the seven retiring representatives belong to the Baby Boomer Generation while one belongs to the Silent Generation and one to Generation X. Their median age is 69.

Of the nine leading candidates to replace these seven representatives, seven belong to Generation X and two to the Baby Boomer Generation, with a median age 20 years younger (49) than the retiring representatives.

The retirements will increase the number of women in the Texas delegation. All seven retiring representatives are men. Today, the 36-member Texas delegation has only three women members (Democrats Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeOvernight Cybersecurity: Feinstein shocks by releasing Fusion GPS testimony | House passes bill to boost oversight of cyber vulnerabilities | FBI director calls encryption 'public safety issue' House passes Homeland Security cybersecurity oversight bill American Airlines apologizes after accusing NBA G League players of stealing blankets MORE of Houston and Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonLet's take step to improve the science of treating serious mental illness Watchdog: Trump officials improperly withheld funds for advanced energy office Seven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation MORE of Dallas and Republican Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerSeven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation House passes .5 billion disaster relief package GOP lawmaker: No town halls because of threats against lawmakers MORE of Fort Worth).

The two front-runners to replace O’Rourke are both women (Veronica Escobar and Dori Fenenbock) while in Houston, Green’s district, the sole front-runner is a woman (Sylvia Garcia). In two other races for Poe and Smith’s seats, female candidates have a reasonable chance of reaching a likely runoff, raising the prospect of the number of women doubling in the Lone Star State’s delegation come 2019.

The retirements will increase the number of Latinos in the Texas delegation. All seven retiring legislators are Anglos. Presently the Texas delegation consists of 26 Anglos, five Latinos and four African Americans. Latinos occupy only 14 percent of Texas’s House seats in spite of representing 40 percent of the state’s population. It is a certainty that at least one, quite likely two, and conceivably three, of the seven new representatives will be Latinos.

One Latino (Sylvia Garcia) is a virtual lock, one (Veronica Escobar) is a front-runner and two others have a remote chance of reaching a runoff against the front-runner. Between Garcia and Escobar, Texas is virtually guaranteed to elect the first Latina member of Congress in its 172-year history. 

The retirements will reduce the number of centrist Democrats and Republicans in the Texas delegation. Two of the six most centrist Republicans in the Texas delegation (Poe and Barton) and two of the six most centrist Democrats (Green and O’Rourke) are among the seven retiring representatives.

The most likely successors of Poe and Barton are notably more conservative than them, while Green’s most likely successor is notably more liberal than him. Neither of O’Rourke’s likely successors differs significantly from him in regard to their ideological profile. 

Unlike the above changes, the retirements are not likely to alter the delegation's partisan balance. Five of the seven representatives are retiring from two safe Democratic and three safe Republican districts. 

In Poe and Smith’s districts there are credible Democrats running, but unless President Trump's popularity craters even further and Republicans nominate a deeply flawed candidate (an unlikely, but now theoretically possible outcome as a result of the retirements), both districts' natural Republican lean should ensure that they stay in the GOP’s hands in 2018.

Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s fellow in political science and the Joseph D. Jamail chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University as well as a co-author of “Texas Politics Today: 2017-2018 Edition.” Follow him @MarkPJonesTX.