A Mass Texodus: Why Republicans are retiring instead of running (updated)

Republicans know Texas is a battleground state, and rather than fight a losing battle, they’re choosing to jump ship.

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on August 13, 2019, but will be updated as more Texas Republicans announce their retirements. 

You've seen the headlines: Democrats won two congressional seats in the last election, and 19 legislative seats in the last two elections. And now Republicans are dropping like flies.

So far, six GOP congressmen have announced their retirements in the last few months. 

The list of those retiring includes: 

  • U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of San Antonio, who won by a mere 926 votes against his Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones in the 2018 midterm elections. Jones is running again, and this time, we fully expect her to flip her congressional district.
  • U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell, who is leaving open another Texas House seat that’s heavily targeted by Democrats in 2020. Marchant won reelection in 2018 by less than four percentage points.
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland, who said that being in the minority in the House is a "frustrating experience." Seems Republicans cannot cope with their loss of power and the results of the 2018 midterms.
  • U.S. Rep. Pete Olson of Sugar Land, who narrowly won his reelection last year against his Democratic challenger Sri Kulkarni. Kulkarni is running again, and Olson’s retirement sets up what will likely be one of the most competitive House races in the country.
  • U.S. Rep. Bill Flores of Waco, a five term Republican representative, who announced his retirement on Sept. 4. Flores joined the growing list of Texas Republicans who have decided to call it quits instead of fight for another term. 
  • U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, who announced his retirement on Sept. 30. Thornberry has held his position in Congress for the last 25 years, but said in a statement that "the time has come for a change." Republicans have obviously given up on any former notions they might have had about taking back the House in 2020.  

In addition to those congressmen, some members of the Texas House have also announced their plans to either retire or resign. 

These members include:

  • Texas Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who announced that he will be resigning. His resignation is effective Sept. 30 and there will be a special election for his seat.
  • Texas Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who announced that he will not be seeking reelection. Stickland is one of the worst lawmakers to ever step foot in the Texas Capitol. Not only did he top Texas Monthly’s list of worst legislators twice, but this year, the publication created a brand new category just for him: “Cockroach.”
  • Texas Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, who announced he would not be seeking reelection on Sept. 25. Bohac won his reelection in 2018 by just 47 votes against his Democratic challenger. His retirement gives progressives the perfect opportunity to pickup his seat in the upcoming election.   
  • Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who announced he would not be seeking reelection on Oct. 22. Bonnen's announcement came just one week after a recording of his secret meeting with far-right extremist Michael Quinn Sullivan was released. In addition to the usual homophobic comments and backdoor dealings typical of Texas Republicans, the audio also revealed the GOP's hatred of small government in our state.
  • Texas Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugarland, who dropped his reelection big on on Dec. 3 after facing backlash for his racist remarks about his opponents. In 2018, Miller won re-election by fewer than 5 percentage points. His seat is ripe for the picking and progressives are ready to flip it in 2020. 
  • Texas Rep. Mike Lang, R-Granbury, who opted against reelection for a second time on Dec. 9. Lang instead filed to run for Hood County commissioner. Lang initially announced in September that he would not seek reelection and instead run for county commissioner, but then reversed that decision days later. 
  • Texas Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who announced he would not be seeking reelection on Dec. 10, one day after filing to run. Zedler won reelection in 2018 by less than 4 percentage points. In 2020, progressives will be working hard to flip his district. 

Just a friendly reminder that progressives only need nine more seats to flip the Texas House in 2020. That dream is becoming more and more of a reality. 

There have also been retirement announcements from members of other important offices here in the state which include: 

  • Houston-area State Board of Education member Donna Bahorich, who announced that she would not be seeking reelection on Oct. 4. Bahorich will serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in 2020.

In the midst of all of this, one of the biggest scandals to hit the Texas legislature in years has damaged and embarrassed Texas Republicans. Read all about the Republican Speaker’s hypocritical, and potentially illegal, bribery attempt with Empower Texans here.

By all accounts, Texas Republicans are not looking so hot going into 2020.

So why are all these Republicans leaving? 

The only plausible explanation for this Texodus that these Republicans see the writing on the wall. They know when their time is up, and rather than waste money on a campaign they know they are bound to lose, they are quitting while they’re ahead.

The fact is, Texas is the biggest battleground state in the nation and progressives are lining up to flip districts. Don’t believe me? Maybe the data will change your mind

If we’re giving credit where credit is due, we’ve got to give these retirees props. At least they know when to walk away. Hopefully, they’ll bring some of their GOP buddies along with them and avoid further embarrassment in 2020.