HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Congressman Gene Green announced his retirement this week, starting a scramble for candidates to fill that seat.
Panelists this week include: Bob Price - Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and attorney, Tony Diaz - educator and Chicano activist, Marcus Davis - Radio Host of Sunday Morning Live, Majic 102, Bill King - columnist, businessman and former Kemah mayor, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Long-serving Democratic Rep. Gene Green - a key reason Houston is now America's largest Hispanic city without a Hispanic member of Congress - announced Monday that he won't seek re-election, the sixth Texas congressman to give up his seat this year.
The 70-year-old said in a statement Monday that he's "confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term" but added that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Green's district snakes through mostly working-class areas of north and east Houston and will remain safely Democratic. That opens the door for Latinos in city politics or the Texas Legislature to jump into the party's primary in March to replace him. Exactly who will do so isn't immediately clear since the filing deadline is still about a month away.
First elected to Congress in 1992, Green speaks minimal Spanish and admits to answering questions about being "the Anglo in the Hispanic district" for decades. He's never lost in the district, originally drawn to empower Hispanic voters and now nearly 80 percent Latino.
Green remained popular by winning over top Hispanic activists and obsessing about ways to keep constituents happy, such as organizing job fairs, returning home every weekend and personally returning phone calls.
Fully one-sixth of the 36-member Texas delegation in the U.S. House has now announced plans to leave office. Another Democrat, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, is giving up his El Paso seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. They join four Republicans.
Sam Johnson, an 87-year-old member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, announced in January he was retiring next year. Jeb Hensarling, 60, who chairs the influential House Financial Services Committee; Lamar Smith, 69, who heads the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; and 69-year-old Ted Poe all said recently they weren't seeking re-election either.
The retirements aren't thought to be part of a larger Texas political shakeup. Next year's election now figures to be seismic for the state, though, since moderate Texas House Speaker Joe Straus shocked the Texas Capitol last month by announcing he too was stepping down.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Green "will be missed on both sides of the aisle."
"Gene has played an important role in defending the Affordable Care Act, fighting every day for expanded access to affordable insurance coverage for all who need it," Hoyer said in a statement. "He has also been a staunch ally of Israel in Congress, helping to ensure the strong, bipartisan support essential for the security of the Middle East's only representative democracy."
Houston is America's fourth largest city, home to 2.3 million people, around 44 percent of whom are Latino. Nationally, Hispanics represent 17 percent of the population but only hold 7 percent of U.S. House seats. In Texas alone, they make up the majority of registered voters in nine congressional districts, but only four are represented by Hispanics.
U.S. Representative Gene Green released the following statement on Monday afternoon:
Serving as an elected official is one of the greatest honors our country can bestow on a person. I have been blessed and fortunate to serve almost 46 years in elected office. Since 1973, I have served as a Texas State Representative for 13 years, Texas State Senator for seven years and since 1993 as a member of the United States Congress. Our family has known politics and public service throughout their lives. My wife, Helen, has been a partner every step of the way for our 47 years of marriage.
The goal of every elected official should be to serve and help your constituency to have a better life for their families. I am proud of sponsoring events in our district such as having Immunization Day each year for the past 20 years to provide free vaccinations for children and Citizenship Day each year for the past 22 years to help legal residents to become citizens of our great country. We have also held Job Fairs twice a year to help people find employment and Paying for College Workshops to help students find the resources to allow them to afford to go to college. At home or in Washington my goal is to impact legislation for the benefit of our constituents. Serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee helped to put a Texas view on the expansion of Health Care access and expand job opportunities in our district.
We have held many town hall meetings each year and have been accessible to people in our district. Our staff in Houston and Washington has been dedicated to helping our constituents with problems in many different areas such as Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and Immigration. I have been blessed to have such a dedicated staff to help me do the job of a Member of Congress.
I have been fortunate to have never lost an election since 1972 and I am confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term in Congress. However, I have decided that I will not be filing for re-election in 2018. I think that it is time for me to be more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. I have had to miss so many of their activities and after 26 years in Congress it is time to devote more time to my most important job of being a husband, father and grandfather.
I and our staff will continue to serve our district until our term is over at the end of 2018.