DALLAS (CBSDFW) – In an announcement that caught some North Texas political watchers off-guard, Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Dallas has announced he’s not running for re-election.
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says, “Big surprise. I didn’t expect it. I was surprised when I heard it because he’s an energetic battler in Congress.”
Hensarling, first elected in 2002, will walk away from Capitol Hill when his term as Chairman of the powerful House Financial Services committee comes to an end next year.
In a statement, Hensarling says the political and personal timing seems right, “As the parents of two teenagers, Melissa and I know there are only a few years left before they leave and make their own way in life. I want to be there for those years.”
While in Congress, Hensarling made a name for himself fighting against taxpayer bailouts and fighting for changing financial regulations put in place during the Obama administration, and for reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
He was also once Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the fourth highest leadership position in the House.
Now, Professor Jillson says expect a free-for-all among Republicans to fill his seat. “I think there’ll be a lot of people just this afternoon are calling friends, calling campaign managers, preparing to announce.”
In addition to Hensarling, Republican Congressman Sam Johnson of Plano, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven years, is also retiring from Congress next year.
Both Johnson’s and Hensarling’s districts are safe for the GOP.
Jillson says, “Jeb won that district by 50 or 60 points against light opposition. Donald Trump won the district by 30 points, so it’s a deep red district.”
Hensarling’s district includes E. Dallas and Dallas County, Kaufman, Van Zandt, and other counties southeast of the Metroplex.
Other Republican members of Congress from North Texas issued statements praising Hensarling.
Representative Kenny Marchant of Coppell said, “His leadership in Congress will be missed, but his legacy of fighting for conservative principles will remain.”
Congressman Roger Williams of Austin said, “I will miss working every day with my friend, and the House will miss his conservative leadership.”
Representative Michael Burgess of Lewisville tweeted, “We’ll miss his leadership and service to the people of Texas and all Americans.”
Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack