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 BartonEx-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street Longtime GOP aide to launch lobbying shop Katie Hill resignation reignites push for federal 'revenge porn' law 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 Johnson Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan Lobbying world Social Security is approaching crisis territory 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-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company 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'RourkeVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection Trump mocks Booker over suspended presidential campaign 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 HurdDCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program The Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown The Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense 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 Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street George H.W. Bush grandson to enter Texas congressional race MORE in Houston and Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden Giuliani held phone call with Maduro amid Venezuela crisis Texas GOP rep predicts heavy Democratic presence in state ahead of 2020 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 LeePatrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' The US should work to counter India's actions against the people of Kashmir Sheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade MORE of Houston and Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonFive environmental fights to watch in 2020 Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention What has EPA been hiding about formaldehyde? MORE of Dallas and Republican Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa Conservative Club for Growth backs Texas House Republican's primary challenger ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks 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.