By Jim EllisAug. 1, 2019 — It looks like the House GOP retirement cavalcade of the past week is continuing. Reports surfaced overnight yesterday that Texas Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) would announce his retirement from Congress after what will be 16 years in office at the end of the current term. He did so yesterday in an afternoon press conference in Midland, Texas, which opens the 15th House seat in this election cycle, and the fifth in the past week.
Though the last five seats all come from the Republican side, four are safe for the party and will produce GOP successors. The eventual Republican nominee in the TX-22 seat, from which Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is departing, will still be favored next November, but this district will be competitive.Texas’ 11th District is the third-safest Republican seat in the nation, at least on the 2016 Trump presidential scale. The president received 78 percent of the vote from this west Texas constituency, and the eventual GOP nominee will become a prohibitive favorite in the 2020 general election.
The 11th District is anchored in the Midland-Odessa region deep in west Texas, moves east to annex the city of San Angelo, and then travels northeast almost to the outer Ft. Worth suburbs. The district contains 27 counties and parts of two others. In addition to posting 78 percent for Trump, Mitt Romney earned 79 percent, and John McCain recorded 76 percent support in 2008.
More than 70 percent of the congressional district lies in two state Senate seats, the latter districts actually being larger than federal CDs. Interestingly, those two Senate seats are anchored in cities, Lubbock and Amarillo, that lie as population anchors of different congressional districts. Therefore, Sens. Chris Perry (R-Lubbock) or Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) will have a smaller political base in the 11th CD than one would guess from looking at the district overlay map.
Several state House districts are contained within the Conaway congressional district and several sitting members could enter a Republican primary. The person in potentially the best position is Odessa Rep. Brooks Landgraf, but several others represent significant portions. The Midland state representative, former state House Speaker Tom Craddick who was first elected in 1968, will not be a congressional candidate.
Of the four retirements and one federal nomination announced during the past week, three of the seats are located in Texas: the 11th, the aforementioned 22nd District, and the 4th CD that Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) will vacate when he is confirmed as the nation’s Director of the Office of National Intelligence.
In addition to these three, Reps. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Martha Roby (R-AL) have also announced that they will not seek re-election. Of the 15 open House seats, 12 are current Republican seats, meaning the Republicans’ chances of re-claiming the House majority become more difficult than had all of their incumbents remained in office and sought re-election.
Among other committee assignments, Texas will lose two members of the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Conaway and Ratcliffe, and Rep. Olson’s seat on the Energy & Commerce Committee.