Has served in Congress since 1987.
Several GOP lawmakers have decided to retire at the end of this term and another one has joined the ranks: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who represents the 21st district, which includes San Antonio. From Texas Tribune:
“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” he wrote in an email obtained by the Tribune. “… With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast.”
Smith, a San Antonio native, received his undergraduate degree from Yale and attended law school at Southern Methodist University. He was elected to Congress in 1987 and represents a district that spans Austin, San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country. He is the current chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Smith told reporters on a conference call that “there’s nothing else I would rather be doing,” but he feels “relieved” by his decision. A reporter asked him if the decision came because of a “toxic political environment” and he said it did not.
The Texas Tribune reported that Smith’s name has come up as possible lawmakers who would retire. But some believed he should stay because he is respected across the aisle and could have taken over as chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.
Smith has received a lot of criticism for his doubts on man-made climate change, but that has not swayed Democrats from him, many of whom have “described him as a pragmatic chairman and colleague who would listen to their arguments.” However he has provided evidence to back his points:
In a 2015 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he described global temperature increases over the past 15 years as “negligible” and said links between climate change and worsening weather events had been debunked. During the latter half of that year, he sparred with the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the methodology of a study that agency scientists published in the journal Science. (The study found that a widely publicized “lull” in the rate of global warming, a cornerstone of conservative arguments against climate change-related policies, resulted from faulty statistical methods.)
But will the seat remain Republican? It’s obviously been a safe GOP seat because Smith has represented that district since 1987, but there’s a chance it could become Democrat:
Smith’s 21st Congressional District runs from South Austin along the west side of I-35 into San Antonio and extends westward into the Hill Country. The district was drawn to be a safe Republican seat, but there is a competitive Democratic primary this year with viable fundraising candidates. One of the Democratic challengers, veteran Joe Kopser, raised more funds than Smith in the last quarter.
Democrats have argued for weeks that if more Republicans retire, they have a better shot at those open-seat races.
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