When she last ran for reelection, Johnson indicated that this would be her final term in Congress, and the new announcement makes that decision official.
“Last March, when I won the primary, I announced that that was my last primary, and I told every citizen that had a telephone in [the 30th Congressional District],” Johnson said in her announcement on Saturday.
“I had gone back and forth [. . .] the whole time because of the pleading and the asking. But as of January , I will step down. I will retire.”
Her retirement marks a major turning point in her lifelong political career that began in 1973 when she first took office in the Texas House of Representatives. Johnson also worked under the Jimmy Carter administration and was later elected to the Texas Senate in 1986.
Currently, Johnson is the only member of the Texas delegation who chairs a full committee in the Democrat-controlled House, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Johnson’s retirement will leave the Dallas congressional district open during its first post-redistricting election, which left the seat highly favorable for Democrats.
Prior to redistricting, her district had a Texas Partisan Index (TPI) rating wherein Democrats were favored to win with 81 percent of the vote (D-81%) based on the 2018 and 2020 election results.
After redistricting, the TPI rating for Johnson’s district is left only slightly lower at D-78%.
At her announcement, Johnson did not shy away from saying that she would stay involved in the race for her seat.
“Let me assure you, I will also recommend to you who I feel is the best to follow me,” said Johnson. “And I would appreciate you appreciating my judgment.”
Though she has not yet endorsed anyone specific, she provided two details about who that person could ultimately be.
She said her goal “is to look for a female” and also noted that, “anybody that’s already been rejected in this district, they will not be receiving my endorsement.”
With an open seat, though, there is bound to be a wide array of candidates competing for the position, and several have already launched their campaigns.
Abel Mulugheta, who worked in the state legislature for Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), announced a campaign for the seat soon after lawmakers completed the redistricting process.
Jessica Mason, who describes herself as “a Navy veteran, community organizer, and progressive candidate,” launched a campaign for the seat earlier this year and has reported raising $134,000 thus far according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Jane Hamilton, who worked as chief of staff to Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33) and as the statewide director for Joe Biden’s presidential primary race in Texas, launched an exploratory committee for the seat in May and officially launched her campaign shortly after Johnson’s announcement.
Johnson had a primary challenger in 2020 who is again running for the seat, Shenita Cleveland. Out of the four candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary race, Cleveland placed second behind Johnson with 13.6 percent of the vote.
Zachariah Manning, who ran for a Dallas county commissioner seat in 2020, has also launched a bid for the congressional district.
Former Dallas city council member Vonciel Jones Hill filed paperwork with the FEC for the position after Johnson’s announcement.
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) is also reportedly considering a bid for the seat.
On the Republican side, Tre Pennie, Johnson’s GOP challenger in 2020, is running for the seat again. Last November, he received 18.4 percent against Johnson’s 77.5 percent, while a third independent candidate, Eric Williams, received 4.1 percent.
So far, the secretary of state does not list any Republican or Democratic candidates as having filed to be on the ballot for the March primary election. The filing deadline for candidates is December 13, 2021.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.