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Barton Not Running for Re-Election

Decision comes after nude photo and racy text messages surfaced

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton is not running for re-election after a nude photo and suggestive text messages surfaced over the last week. 

Barton, the dean of the Texas delegation, announced Thursday he would not seek an 18th term. The Republican lawmaker had previously decided to run again before the photo and messages became public.

“As a young Congressman, my slogan was ‘listening to you in Texas, working for you in Washington,’” Barton said in a statement. “For me that was never just a saying, but a commitment — a way of life.”

“It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice,” he said.

A nude photo of Barton was posted on social media last week, causing the congressman to re-evaluate whether he would run again. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday published suggestive text messages Barton exchanged with a woman while he was still married. And on Thursday, a third woman came forward, telling radio station WBAP that she had an affair with Barton. Some local Republicans were pressuring him to retire, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A top name emerging as a potential contender for the open seat is Republican Ron Wright, the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector. He previously worked as Barton’s chief of staff and district director, according to local media reports. 

Retired Navy pilot Jake Ellzey, a member of the Texas Veterans Commission, had already launched a primary challenge against Barton.

A handful of Democrats have filed to run for the seat. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 6th District race Solid Republican. President Donald Trump carried the district by 12 points in 2016, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections

Barton is the seventh House member of the Texas delegation not running for re-election next year.

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First elected in 1984, Barton served as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee from 2004 to 2007. He is a member of the GOP whip team as well as the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Barton is also the manager for the GOP baseball team in the annual Congressional Baseball Game, when Republicans lawmakers face off against Democrats for charity.

Watch: An Inside Look at How Congressmen Decide to Retire

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