One day after a group of local Republicans met privately with U.S. Rep. Joe Barton about a nude photo of him that ended up online — and his political future — a number of Tarrant County Republicans are calling on the longtime congressman to not seek re-election.
“Since Mr. Barton’s highly-publicized issues have come to light, I have talked to numerous Republican activists, leaders, voters and elected officials about this situation — not a single one of them thinks he should run again,” said Tim O’Hare, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “I personally hope he learns from this and tries to be a better father and man.”
Last week, the 68-year-old Barton issued an apology for the sexually explicit photo he took and texted to a woman he was in a consensual relationship with years ago.
“... I, along with thousands of other Tarrant County Republicans, call on Mr. Barton to not seek re-election and to retire from Congress by the end of this year,” O’Hare said in a statement. “We are at a critical point in our nation’s history.
“It is my hope Mr. Barton will place his constituents, Tarrant County Republicans and our nation above his personal desires to make way for a candidate who better embodies our values and who will ensure Congressional District 6 remains in Republican hands.”
Around 20 Republican leaders, mostly women, met with Barton at an Arlington home Monday night to share concerns about his potential re-election bid. Barton, R-Ennis, has filed for re-election but could choose to withdraw from the race.
The consensus from many at the meeting is that Barton’s past service was greatly appreciated, but they didn’t feel he should run for another term.
“He opened by apologizing deeply for the embarrassment he caused his family and the Republicans,” said one woman who attended the meeting and asked to remain anonymous. “As Republicans, we hold very strong family values and morals.
“We are so emotionally distraught over this,” the woman said. “It is what it is. He says he’s changed and he will never do that again. We hope that’s true. ... We understand that it happened, but we don’t feel he should run again.”
Barton told the crowd that he’s gathering feedback and that a consulting firm is polling many party faithful to see if his behavior and the nude photo would make a difference in whether they would support him in the primary election next year.
Those are factors he will consider — along with feedback from family and Republican colleagues in Washington, D.C. — before deciding whether or not to stay in the race or withdraw his name.
Filing for slots on next year’s March 6 primary ballot runs until Dec. 11.
People at the meeting said they don’t know whether Barton will stay in the race.
“His perception is that there is no other viable candidate that would enter the race to challenge him if he chose to run,” said the woman who attended the meeting. “But that is not true. There are many people who are upset with the [photo] and perhaps his voting record.
“There are people positioning to run whether he withdraws or not.”
Barton has represented the 6th Congressional District, which includes most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties, since 1985.
Barton has said he doesn’t know how the photo surfaced on Twitter; it was posted through an anonymous account.
“I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days,” he said in a statement released to several media outlets Wednesday. “I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”
The unidentified woman he sent the text to told The Washington Post that she did not post the photo on social media. She has also said that Barton threatened to contact Capitol Police if she exposed his secret sex life.
She told the Post that she had a “secretly recorded phone conversation” with Barton who asked her not to use the pictures “in a way that would negatively affect my career.”
Barton later said the Capitol Police offered to begin an investigation, which he has accepted, and would no longer comment on the matter.
A question left unanswered is whether Barton could be a victim of revenge porn, which is when someone posts sexually explicit photos and videos of an ex online to get revenge after a breakup.
Texas lawmakers in 2015 passed the Relationship Privacy Act to crack down on a growing number of revenge porn cases.
National Republican strategists said party leaders expect to hear soon whether Barton will step down, retire at the end of his term or seek re-election.
If Barton were to resign from the seat, there could be a special election next year that both parties could target.
Republicans privately say that some within the community — including Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, a former chief of staff and district director for Barton — are being considered as potential candidates if Barton decides not to seek re-election.
Republican J.K. “Jake” Ellzey, a Texas Veterans Commission member who lives in Midlothian, has filed to run for the post.
As for Democrats, several have already filed.
Ruby Faye Woolridge of Arlington, who ran against Barton in 2016, has filed to run for the post again. So has Jana Lynne Sanchez, a public relations specialist from Arlington, and Levii R. Shocklee of Arlington.
“A lot of people have wanted to run against him for a long time,” said the woman who attended Monday’s meeting. “But he seemed unbeatable.
“With this situation, they see a real opportunity to win.”