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 trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 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 HensarlingThe next two years of federal housing policy could be positive under Mark Calabria Why Ocasio-Cortez should make flood insurance reform a priority Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE, Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonTexas New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress May brings key primaries across nation MORE, Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeTexas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs MORE and Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithComstock joins K Street firm Congress can stop the war on science Yoder, Messer land on K Street MORE, along with Democrats Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE and Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkePoll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could NBC, CNN to host first two Democratic presidential primary debates 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 HurdImmigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security Advocacy groups want border-for-Dreamers deal ahead of Feb. 15 deadline Bill Maher draws backlash for making Popeyes comment to black congressman 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 CulbersonDCCC official says Democrats look to make 'big gains' in Texas, Georgia Democrats need a worthy climate plan NASA lost key support to explore Jupiter's moon MORE in Houston and Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown 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 LeeFive takeaways from acting AG's fiery House hearing Democrat to acting AG: 'We are not joking here' Whitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers MORE of Houston and Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Congress can stop the war on science Black Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority MORE of Dallas and Republican Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOn The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal 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.