WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2020, making him the sixth GOP congressman from Texas to say he's retiring in recent weeks.
"It has been a great honor for me to represent the people of the 13th District of Texas for the last 25 years," he said in a statement.
“We are reminded, however, that 'for everything there is a season,' and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, I will not be a candidate for reelection in the 2020 election."
Thornberry joins five other Texas Republicans in Congress who are not running for reelection — U.S. Reps. Kenny Marchant, Pete Olson, Mike Conaway, Will Hurd and Bill Flores. But Thornberry's exit is somewhat different from other Republicans' shocking retirements over the summer. The last remaining Texas Republican from the class of 1994 and the dean of the GOP delegation, Thornberry was expected by many to retire soon. He will turn over his post leading the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee in January 2021, thanks to Republican term limits for committee chairmanships.
“With over a year to go, I will continue to represent the people of the 13th District to the best of my ability, " Thornberry said. "Our nation faces many difficult challenges, and none of us can relax our efforts to meet and overcome them, whether at home or around the world."
Thornberry's district includes parts of 41 counties, including most of the Texas Panhandle, and it's solidly Republican. President Donald Trump won 80% of the vote there in 2016. Thornberry defeated his opponent Democrat Greg Sagan in the 2018 midterm election with 82% of the vote.
Sagan is running again in 2020, though the district remains highly unlikely to flip. Still, Democrats celebrated Thornberry's announcement as the latest chapter in the growing "Texodus," claiming his decision at least showed Republicans are not optimistic about taking back the House in 2020.
"Thornberry retired because he didn’t want to continue to serve in the minority, which he was bound to do again because of the efforts of the Texas Democratic Party, the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], and elected Democratic leaders across the country," the state party's executive director, Manny Garcia said in a statement.
The Republican primary to succeed Thornberry will likely be crowded. A few hours after Thornberry said he was retiring, Amarillo City Councilwoman Elaine Hays issued a statement thanking Thornberry for his service and announcing she was forming an exploratory committee for the seat.
"We need to send someone to Washington who will fight for life, liberty, term limits, a balanced budget, and secure borders," she said. "We also need someone who will stand up to the far left in Congress and will fight for the conservative values of the 13th district."
Another Republican, Josh Winegarner, said after Thornberry's announcement that he was "seriously considering" a run for the seat and would make an announcement soon. Winegarner is director of government relations for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He also is a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and ex-U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.
Gabe Schneider contributed reporting.
Correction: Due to an editing error, this story originally misstated the number of Texans in Congress from the class of 1994. Thornberry is the only remaining Republican in the class.