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

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

 

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 HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE, Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonLobbying world Social Security is approaching crisis territory Texas New Members 2019 MORE, Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE and Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' 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'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke eyes stronger enforcement of Emoluments Clause, limits to pardons Poll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Authorities seize weapons from alleged neo-Nazi leader under 'red flag' law MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 HurdGOP lawmaker: Trump administration 'playing checkers' in Syria while others are 'playing chess' Sunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Hurd: No Ukrainian officials have told State Department 'they felt like their arms were being twisted' 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 CulbersonBottom line Lack of transparency may put commercial space program at risk Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm MORE in Houston and Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsFourth defendant in Giuliani associate case taken into custody at New York airport The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren Former GOP lawmaker Pete Sessions subpoenaed over dealings with Giuliani associates 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 LeeConsequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears Video of Greta Thunberg crossing paths with Trump at UN goes viral Lewandowski: House testimony shows I'd be 'a fighter' in the Senate MORE of Houston and Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonEPA official delayed recusal on key health study for ex-employer: report Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight to take center stage at Dem debate MORE of Dallas and Republican Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOvernight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Congress hunts for offramp from looming shutdown fight House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November 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.