Elections 2020FederalIssuesRep. Thornberry Announces Retirement After Hitting Term Limit in Committee Leadership

Rep. Mac Thornberry is the sixth Texas Republican to announce his retirement, leaving an open seat in the most Republican district of the country.
September 30, 2019
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On Monday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13) announced his plan to retire from Congress at the end of his term, opening up his seat to a likely Republican successor.

“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years,” said Thornberry in a statement. “We are reminded, however, that ‘for everything there is a season,’ and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, I will not be a candidate for reelection in the 2020 election.”

Thornberry is the sixth Texas Republican to announce his retirement. He has served as the representative of the district since he first won in 1994 during the Republican Revolution, unseating Democratic incumbent Bill Sarpalius.

In 2015, Thornberry began serving as the chair of the House Armed Services Committee. He continued serving as the chair or ranking member in the past two terms, reaching the three-term limit for the position as set by the GOP.

As the leading member on the committee for the Republican Party, Thornberry has consistently pushed for increased military spending in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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Last year, he helped pass a national defense budget of $716 billion for the 2019 fiscal year.

Earlier this month, the House and Senate both passed versions of the FY2020 NDAA, and the two chambers began meeting in conference to reconcile the differences before a final bill can be sent to the president.

While the Senate bill would increase the annual budget to $750 billion, the House version would be a little smaller at $738 billion.

Thornberry’s retirement is similar to that of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX-11), who is reaching his term limit as the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee.

Like Conaway, Thornberry’s seat is solidly Republican.

Stretching across the Texas Panhandle and along the Texas-Oklahoma border to just north of Fort Worth, his district is rated as the most Republican in the country by the Cook Partisan Voter Index (R +33).

While one Democrat, Greg Sagan, has already started a campaign for the seat, more Republicans are expected to enter into a primary. Given the makeup of the district, the March 3 election will likely determine who will be the next representative in the office.

In the coming weeks, the race may start looking like the one in Conaway’s district, where eight candidates have already filed to run with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Elaine Hays, an Amarillo city council member, has reportedly stated her exploration of running for the seat.

State Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) announced earlier this month that he was exploring a possibility of challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in his re-election campaign. Since then, he is reportedly leaning against joining that race.

Although his hometown is not in the Thornberry’s congressional district, his senate district overlaps with it. Fallon could potentially move within his district to run for the open seat, as he did in moving from the state house to the state senate.

Other state senators and representatives who serve in districts overlapping the 13th Congressional District include Sens. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), and Reps. John Smithee (R-Amarillo), Four Price (R-Amarillo), Ken King (R-Canadian), Drew Springer (R-Muenster), James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), and Phil King (R-Weatherford).

Of course, the race for Thornberry’s seat could look like the race for Bill Flores’ (R-TX-17) open seat. The 17th Congressional District is also rated safely Republican, but no one has filed to run since Flores’ retirement announcement in early September.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.