Dec. 4, 2017 — Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, has apparently taken the advice he was reportedly receiving from many local Republican leaders and activists advising him not to seek re-election. Barton, recently coming under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced late last week through social media that he will end his 34-year congressional career when the current Congress adjourns.
Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas’ Dec. 11 candidate filing deadline. We expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open 6th District contest since 1984. Immediately, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright announced that he would enter the newly open Republican primary.
The 6th District performs as a safe Republican seat beginning in the Arlington area of Tarrant County, which is the population anchor, before continuing southeast to annex Ellis and Navarro Counties. President Trump carried the 6th, 54-42 percent, down a bit from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance of 58-41 percent against President Obama.
Five Democrats previously announced their candidacies, but none are viewed as particularly viable. Now that the seat is open, more prominent party leaders may come forward to run, but the electorate here is a virtual lock to continue performing as a safe Republican seat.
Barton now becomes the 39th representative to bypass their next re-election, and the 26th Republican. Of Texas’ 36 congressional seats, seven will be open in 2018, six from Republican districts in addition to one West Texas Democratic CD.
Major developments occurred in the important open Ohio governor’s race also late last week.
The top two Republican candidates, in terms of polling and fundraising, joined forces in an announcement to form a unified party ticket. Attorney general and former US senator Mike DeWine will lead the new team with secretary of state and former state House Speaker Jon Husted dropping his own gubernatorial campaign in order to join the proposed ticket as the lieutenant governor candidate.
Later in the day, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, whose campaign for the governor’s nomination has begun slowly, announced that she will continue her effort. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) also remains in the race, and a spokesman said the congressman is energized by the DeWine-Husted unification. According to the post-announcement campaign interview, Renacci believes he will now have open field running to cast himself as the conservative outsider against the Republican establishment.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former Consumer Protection Financial Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray is expected to make a formal announcement next week to join the Democratic gubernatorial nomination campaign.
If Cordray is successful in topping the current primary field, which includes former US Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning County), and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, and the DeWine-Husted ticket is nominated for the GOP, the 2018 governor’s race would be a rerun of the 2010 attorney general’s contest. In that tight political battle, DeWine ousted then-incumbent Cordray, 47.5 – 46.3 percent.
The Ohio governor’s race features high political stakes because of the redistricting importance the state carries. With a congressional delegation margin of 12-4 Republican, the GOP needs a strong Ohio map to continue as one of the key anchors to their national majority. With the state almost sure to lose at least one seat in reapportionment, the 2021 redistricting map becomes all the more critical. The governor elected next year will possess the redistricting veto pen over the new maps.
Much national attention will be paid to this open governor’s race, and yesterday’s announcement made things all the more interesting. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.