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 BartonRep. Ron Wright dies after contracting COVID-19 Biden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond Bottom line 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 HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE, Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonDan Bongino to present five-part Fox series on people 'canceled' CEO fired after mocking teen for wearing dress to prom Van Taylor wins reelection to Texas seat held by GOP since 1968 MORE, Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE and Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEx-officers acquitted in beating of Black colleague who was undercover at St. Louis protests Bottom line In partisan slugfest, can Chip Roy overcome Trump troubles? MORE, along with Democrats Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenBottom line Texas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress MORE and Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke mum on run for Texas governor Beto O'Rourke, Willie Nelson financially back Texas Democrats in elections bill fight Texans split on whether Abbott deserves reelection: poll 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 HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel 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 CulbersonNASA's Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System Texas Republicans sound post-2020 alarm bells 2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program MORE in Houston and Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results 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 LeeBiden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund The faith community can help pass a reparations bill Hillicon Valley: Russian hacking group believed to be behind Kaseya attack goes offline | DHS funding package pours millions into migrant surveillance | Jen Easterly sworn in as director of DHS cyber agency MORE of Houston and Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonOur approach to schizophrenia is failing House passes bills to boost science competitiveness with China The Chinese-Russian Lunar Axis adopts a plan from the late Paul Spudis MORE of Dallas and Republican Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerFunding fight imperils National Guard ops Lobbying world Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill 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.