Texas 17: Add Another Republican to List of Retirements

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 4, 2019 · 3:30 PM EDT

It’s not a question of if more House Members will retire; it’s a question of when and where.

On Wednesday, Bill Flores became the fifth Texas Republican to announce he will not seek re-election or another office in 2020. Of the 13 total members retiring in 2020, 11 are Republicans and two are Democrats. And more retirements are likely to come, considering 23 members, on average, have retired each election cycle, going back to the 1970s. 

There’s not necessarily something in the water in The Lone Star State that’s inspiring the exodus. Texas has an early candidate filing deadline (Dec. 9) and primaries (March 3), so members can’t wait until the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to contemplate their political futures. And they want to give future candidates enough time to build their campaigns in order to give the party the best chance to hold their seats.

The sheer number of retirements isn’t as important as the partisanship of the district being left behind.

Republicans shouldn’t have a problem holding Flores’ 17th District seat. President Donald J. Trump carried the College Station/Waco, suburban Austin district 56-39 percent in 2016, according to Daily Kos Elections. Of course, the open seat race is just getting started, so we don’t know who will run and what the national political environment will be next year. 

But holding districts currently held by retiring GOP Reps. Pete Olson, Kenny Marchant, and Will Hurd will be more difficult. We changed our rating for Texas’ 23rd District from Toss-up to Lean Democratic when Hurd announced his retirement in early August. 

More recently, we changed our rating in Olson’s 22nd and Marchant’s 24th districts from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican. Both seats contain significant suburban territory (the 22nd includes southern Houston suburbs and 24th is suburban Dallas/Fort Worth), where Republicans have struggled, especially since Trump was elected president. 

Republicans are having difficulty holding North Carolina’s 9th District in the upcoming redo election on Tuesday, in part because of the Charlotte suburbs. According to the bipartisan poll conducted for Inside Elections, Democrat Dan McCready led Republican Dan Bishop 69-27 percent in Mecklenburg County. Bishop was leading in the more rural areas, but not by the same margin. 

One of the ways Republicans looking toward 2020 battles will dismiss a potential loss or close call in North Carolina is by pointing out that McCready, unlike incumbents up next year, cannot be tied to Washington and polarizing colleagues such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But that means Republicans could face a similar challenge in open seat races for Texas 22nd and 24th districts because Democrats will not have an incumbent running.  

There’s more analysis on those races, and close to 100 others, in the most recent, Aug. 30, issue of Inside Elections. 

We also changed the rating of Iowa’s 4th District from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. A crowded field of Republicans challenging Rep. Steve King in the GOP primary increases the likelihood that the nominating process goes to a convention, which could help the congressman’s chances. And if King is the nominee, he increases Democratic chances of winning the seat. This shouldn’t be a competitive race because of the normal GOP performance of the district, but the congressman’s 3-point victory in 2018 points to another closer-than-necessary contest. 

We also changed our rating in California’s 21st District, with former Republican Rep. David Valadao’s entry into the race, from Likely Democratic to Tilt Democratic. The southern Central Valley seat votes Democratic under most circumstances but Valadao routinely overperformed until he lost to Democrat T.J. Cox in 2018 by less than 1 percentage point. 

Next year’s rematch in California will determine whether it’s possible for Republicans to win back lost territory in the near future, now that the member of Congress aligns with the partisanship of the district. For example, Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards represented the College Station, Texas area for years, even though it trended Republican. But once he lost to Flores in 2010, the seat probably isn’t coming back to Democrats anytime soon.