During a press conference in Harlingen, Lucio said that his retirement is a “fresh opportunity” to “do some of the things that I’ve been wanting to do,” including spending more time with family and pursuing his “own personal ministry.”
Lucio’s announcement on Thursday is a reversal of a previous one that he made in June of this year when he said that he planned to seek reelection in Senate District (SD) 27, saying that “South Texas deserves an experienced and accomplished legislator in Austin.”
His retirement follows similar announcements from Sens. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo).
The third senior-most senator in the legislature, Lucio was first elected to his South Texas district in 1990.
Like Seliger, Lucio was a longtime member of the legislature who was well liked by his peers across the aisle as he was often a pivotal swing vote — including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who called him a “great friend and ally in the Texas Senate.”
On abortion issues in particular, Lucio often parted ways with his caucus to support various pro-life initiatives including the Texas Heartbeat Act that is now before the Supreme Court.
“His brave defense of innocent life in the womb, often standing up to criticism from his own party, was a testament to his faith,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a statement on Lucio’s retirement. “He has sent almost-daily prayers to me for most of our 14-year friendship.”
While his pro-life accolades earned the respect of many Republicans, it also drew the ire of many Democrats who wished to see him replaced with someone more progressive.
Lucio faced a competitive primary runoff race in the last election cycle during 2020, but still won his party’s nomination for the seat with a comfortable margin of 53.5 percent of the vote.
The race to fill the open seat could also become competitive, potentially both in the primary and general elections.
Lucio’s son, Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking reelection. Asked if he would like to see his son succeed him in the upper chamber, Lucio Jr. said in a Rio Grande Guardian interview he “would like him to take over the baton.”
Lucio III said that he wanted to “start this next chapter in my life with a focus on family, friends, and business.”
However, he is not the only Brownsville representative who could launch a bid for SD 27.
State Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has already begun exploring a run for the seat, with former state Sen. Wendy Davis reportedly listed as his treasurer. Dominguez’s consideration of a run came after lawmakers drew him into Lucio III’s House district in order to shift his current district to be more favorable toward Republicans.
Lucio, Jr., though, reportedly said that Dominguez “is making a big mistake because he doesn’t have a resume.”
“He hasn’t accomplished anything. He has only followed. He hasn’t led,” said Lucio.
But Lucio also does not approve of another potential candidate in the race, the Republican who authored the amendment pairing Dominguez and Lucio III: Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville).
Once a Democratic member in the legislature, Lozano changed his affiliation with the changing partisan tides of South Texas, shifting from a critic of the Republican redistricting in 2011 to a fierce proponent of the new maps in 2021.
“[Lozano] is known by many in my new district, in Nueces, where I have been received warmly. They can’t help but tell me he deceives them and just does not tell the truth,” said Lucio in the Rio Grande Guardian interview. “I hope that he changes his ways but we don’t have a friend in Representative Lozano.”
With the sweeping GOP gains made along the border during the 2020 presidential election and the recent victory of a Republican in a competitive San Antonio House district runoff, some Republicans are undoubtedly hopeful to gain a South Texas Senate seat.
Winning SD 27 would be an uphill battle for Republicans, but such a win is within reach.
Votes within the new district lines went various ways for major Republicans in recent years. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) received 41 percent of the vote while Gov. Greg Abbott received 48 percent. In 2020, President Donald Trump received 47 percent while Sen. John Cornyn received 46 percent.
“The latest poll shows 58% of Texas Hispanics support the Heartbeat Bill,” said Patrick. “I hope the new Senator from his district will have the courage to continue Sen. Lucio’s legacy. Sen. Lucio leaves big shoes to fill. The bar will be set very high for his successor.”
Update: This article was updated to include a statement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.