By Jim Ellis
Sept. 6, 2019 — Yet another Texas Republican House member has decided not to seek re-election next year, but additionally, two representatives from other states, including the second-longest serving member and a 20-year Democratic congresswoman, also made similar announcements late Wednesday.
In Texas, five-term Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan) becomes the fifth Lone Star State GOP congressman to voluntarily end his congressional career. Veteran Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls), who was first elected in 1978 and is second in seniority only to Alaska Rep. Don Young (R-At-Large), also released a statement saying that he will not seek a 22nd term next year. And 10-term California Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) was the third to delcare retirement. She indicated it is time for her to again live full-time back in the Golden State.
Neither Flores, Sensenbrenner, nor Davis faced difficult re-election campaigns, so electoral politics is certainly not driving these decisions. In his five House victories, Flores averaged 64.8 percent of the vote, including obtaining 62 percent when he ousted veteran incumbent Chet Edwards (D-Waco) back in 2010. Rep. Sensenbrenner posted a 66.5 percent average over the last four elections, while Davis recorded a similar 64.1 percent mean during this decade’s elections.
All three of these districts should remain in the controlling party’s hands. President Trump carried TX-17 with a 56-39 percent margin, though that was down from Mitt Romney’s 60-38 percent victory spread four years earlier. Trump’s victory spread in WI-5 was 57-37 percent, but only 30-64.5 percent in CA-53.
The Central Texas district is home to eight whole counties and parts of four others. The seat has three population anchors, the Waco/McLennan County region, Bryan-College Station, the home of Texas A&M University, and the Pflugerville area of Travis County, just north of Austin. Crawford, Texas, the home site of former President George W. Bush’s ranch, is also found within the district confines and located west of Waco.
Sensenbrenner’s western Milwaukee largely suburban district contains all of Washington and Jefferson Counties, and parts of Waukesha, Milwaukee, Dodge, and Walworth Counties. In addition to what will be 42 years of service in the House at the end of his tenure, Rep. Sensenbrenner also spent four years in the Wisconsin state Senate.
Rep. Davis’ district is fully contained within San Diego County, picking up part of the city of San Diego and the communities of La Mesa, El Cajon (part), Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, and Bonita. In past decades this district would have elected a Republican, but now is safely in the Democratic column. Prior to Davis first being elected to Congress in 2000, she served three terms in the California State Assembly.
Flores will join Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), and Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) in announcing their retirements. At the end of the next election, at least 15 of the 36-member Texas delegation will be either a freshman or sophomore at the beginning of the next Congress.
In addition to Sensenbrenner, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) is another member of the Wisconsin delegation who is retiring, actually resigning before the end of this month due to family considerations. Davis is the lone Californian to so far indicate that she will not file for re-election in early December.
Both the Texas and California primaries are scheduled for March 3. The Wisconsin primary will be held April 7. We can expect to see very active partisan primaries in each of these three congressional districts, particularly because none of the trio will likely be competitive in the fall of 2020.
Counting the two North Carolina districts that will be filled in special elections next week, 21 seats will be open in the 2020 election cycle. At this point, 17 are Republican held or, in the case of the NC-9 CD, was Republican until the 2018 election ended in disputed fashion with no certified winner. Davis becomes only the fourth Democrat to either retire or seek another elective office in this election cycle.