Will Texas stay red or turn blue? Just look at Tarrant County.
Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant made it official Monday morning.
He’s the fourth Texas Republican in Congress to announce retirement plans.
“I am looking forward to finishing out my term and then returning to Texas to start a new chapter,” Marchant, R-Coppell, said in a written statement.
After 40 years in public office, stretching from the city council in Carrollton to the Texas House of Representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, Marchant said he won’t seek re-election to the 24th congressional district he has represented since 2005.
“I want to thank the constituents of the 24th District of Texas for letting me serve and I look forward to being back in Texas full time,” he said, also thanking constituents for trusting him to serve so long. “I look forward to spending more time with my seven grandchildren and working cattle on my ranch.”
Attention quickly turned to who might run on the Republican side to try to replace him. Several Democrats have already announced they would run.
By Monday evening, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a Republican, announced on social media that she was running for the seat. Some also wondered whether Matthew Marchant, son of Kenny Marchant and a past mayor of Carrollton, would jump into the race.
Former state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, said she won’t be in the running. And she noted she “will only support a truly committed conservative who will work to get our country’s fiscal house in order.”
Marchant’s retirement is the fourth announced in recent days by Texas Republicans on Congress, following Will Hurd of Helotes, Mike Conaway of Midland, and Pete Olson of Sugar Land.
His decision is “part of a bigger picture,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU.
“There have now been several retirements for long term Republicans in the House from Texas, and two or three more of its districts might change hands in the 2020 election, including Marchant’s,” he said. “Texas is becoming more competitive, particularly in urban and suburban districts, and Marchant’s district is one of those transforming districts.
“Could he have won in 2020? Perhaps. But it was no longer a ‘safe’ proposition.”
In fact, Democrats have made Marchant’s district a prime election battleground.
Already, several Democrats have filed to run for this district, where Marchant, 68, won his last re-election bid with less than 51 percent of the vote.
Among them: Jan McDowell, who challenged Marchant in 2018, along with Kim Olson, who last year ran for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, lawyer Crystal Fletcher and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board member Candace Valenzuela.
“The simple fact is that Trump Republican Marchant did not stand a chance in the 24th Congressional district,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Monday. “He tied himself to Donald Trump and knew he was staring at a devastating loss against strong Democratic candidates.”
The district, which includes many suburban areas, includes parts of Tarrant, Dallas and Denton counties and has been ranked a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report.
The demographics in this district have shifted in recent years, which could make it prime to flip. And this seat has been named one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top targets in next year’s election.
“Open seats are easier to win than those with an incumbent so, with recent district demographic changes, this district moves quickly to a political toss up,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Overnight, the district moves to a solid opportunity for a Democratic Party pickup.
“We are likely to see increased attention to the district in 2020.”
NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer released a statement Monday about Marchant’s retirement, thanking him for his service and sending a message to Democrats.
“This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat in 2020,” he said.
DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos sent out a statement as well.
“Congressman Marchant’s retirement comes just four months after the DCCC responded to the energy on the ground in Texas and opened an office there, placed six senior staffers on the ground, and deployed organizers in key communities across the state to lay the groundwork for victory next year,” she said. “Clearly that investment is already paying off and Democrats are well positioned to compete and flip more seats in Texas.”
Before being elected to Congress, Marchant served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 2004. Before that, he was a Carrollton city councilman and Carrollton mayor.
In Congress, he is the senior GOP member on the House Ethics Committee.