SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Longtime Rep. Lamar Smith announced Thursday he will not run for a 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives next year, making him the second Republican chairman from Texas to opt out of re-election ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Smith, 69, said in a letter Thursday afternoon that his six-year term as chair of the House Science, Space and Technology committee ends next year and that he hopes to find other ways to stay involved.
“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else. At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics,” Smith said in his letter.
First elected to Congress in 1987, Smith joins at least eight other congressional Republicans who have this year stated their intentions to retire. On Tuesday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he would leave Congress at the end of his current term. Hensarling, like Smith, is an influential member and chairman who leads the House Financial Services Committee.
Smith’s 21st district in Central Texas, rated as solid Republican by nonprofit analysis firm Inside Elections, includes parts of San Antonio and Austin as well as rural counties to the west. President Donald Trump won the district of about 700,000 residents by 10 points in last year’s election.
Smith’s retirement will likely spark a crowded field of contenders vying to replace the San Antonio Republican. A Democratic challenger for the seat, veteran Joseph Kopser, has already built up over $219,000 in campaign funds, according to the Federal Elections Commission. He outraised Smith in the third quarter of fundraising.
“With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do,” Smith wrote in his letter. “There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearing to hold, and hundreds of votes to cast.”
Smith is a graduate of Yale University and received his J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1975. He began his political career in the Texas House of Representative and then served as Bexar County Commissioner before spending three decades in Congress.
Smith’s retirement announcement follows those of Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both of whom have been outspoken critics of President Trump.
Unlike Corker and Flake, Smith has stood by Trump. In January, he encouraged Americans to get their news from the president and not the news media.
“Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth,” he said on the House floor.