November 30, 2017
Longtime Texas Congressman Joe Barton, one of the most outspoken Capitol Hill critics of climate change, says he won’t seek re-election next year, days after a scandal involving a nude photo and sex-related internet messages.
He has held the 6th Congressional District seat representing Arlington and East Fort Worth since 1985, making him the longest-serving Texas Congressmen.
He had recently announced his intention to seek another term.
Barton said Thursday only that it’s “time to step aside and let there be a new voice,” making no reference to the scandal.
UPDATE: Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon that will run for Barton’s seat; occasional candidate Monte Mitchell; Republican and onetime Navy pilotJ.K. “Jake” Ellzey, a Midlothian-area Texas Veterans Commission member, has also filed to run, as have Democrats Ruby Faye Woolridge of Arlington, who ran against Barton in 2016; Arlington PR specialist Jana Lynne Sanchez; and Arlington’s Levii R. Shocklee.
Barton, 68, is now among an extraordinary number of Texans who are leaving their posts.
The number of Texas Republican party leaders, lawmakers and media who have been urging Barton to step down from his Congressional seat has been growing the past few days, with the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, in a Wednesday editorial, calling for him to leave Congress.
The newspaper noted that Barton has “broken no laws.”
Barton has apologized, saying “I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”
The scandal began when a nude photo of him made the rounds on social media, leading to Barton’s admission that he had sexual relationships following a divorce; Barton said an investigation will determine whether the release of the photo by an ex-girlfriend amounts to “revenge porn.”
The Star-Telegram also revealed Wednesday that Barton had shared messages with a female Arlington Republican activist that had “sexual overtones.”
Another woman said on a radio talk show in Dallas on Thursday that she had an affair with Barton.
On the subject of climate change, Barton was adamant about the political nature of the “global warming” movement, launching federal investigations into climate change studies in 2005 and saying in 2007 that such science is “uneven and evolving.”
In recent weeks, Texas politicians such as Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Dallas US Representative Jeb Hensarling, San Antonio US Representative Lamar Smith, Plano Representative Sam Johnson — all Republicans — and most recently 13-term State Representative, Democrat Helen Giddings have announced, without scandal, that they won’t run for re-election.
But a national trend of politicians and celebrities whose past actions have led to improper and abusive sexual situations, also in recent weeks, have swept Barton into the field of those leaving office.
Though the Barton accusations appear mild when compared to others who have been making headlines, they are, at least in the words of Texas Monthly columnist R. G. Ratcliffe, “indefensible.”