U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a trailblazing Democrat in Texas who has served in Congress for nearly 30 years, announced Saturday that she will not seek reelection next year.
Johnson, 85, is a political fixture in her hometown of Dallas, where early in her career she became the first Black woman to serve the city in the state Senate since Reconstruction.
She grew up in the segregated South and was elected in 1992 to Congress, where she became the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
"There is a good reason I should stay: I am a personal friend to the president, I have gained some respect and influence," Johnson said during her announcement.
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But she said plans to keep a promise she made after winning the Democratic primary in March that her current term would be her last.
"As of January (2023) I will step down. I will retire," Johnson said.
Although Democrats are in danger of losing their House majority next year, Johnson would have been able to keep winning her district under new congressional maps signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in October.
Her retirement is likely to attract a rush of hopeful successors. Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at SMU, said the race could include a number of interested candidates who are already serving as elected officials.
"For example, Sen. Royce West has looked at that seat pending Bernice Johnson’s retirement a number of times, but he may not decide to do it," Jillson said. "There are also a number of Texas House members that are interested in that seat, as well. Yvonne Davis is one of those, Jasmine Crockett, Toni Rose, and people look at Mayor Eric Johnson and wonder whether he might be interested in that seat. There are at least half a dozen others."
At least three candidates have filed to run for the seat as of Saturday, according to The Dallas Morning News. One of those people is Zachariah Manning, who attended Johnson's announcement Saturday.
"I was raised in the district. I know the district, and I’m a businessman that’s going to bring business to the district and not just talk," Manning said.
Johnson said she would eventually endorse a successor for her safely Democratic seat, but not yet.
"My goal is to look for a female that is qualified," Johnson said.
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) issued the following statement Saturday.
“Congresswoman Johnson represents the best of North Texas. She is a trailblazer who worked her way to become the Chief Psychiatric Nurse at the Dallas VA, serving honorably in the state House and Senate, and now in Congress chairing the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
“Whether you are from Dallas or not, nearly every Texan has benefited in some way from the work of Congresswoman Johnson. Her legacy is remarkable, and I can tell you firsthand from our shared work on the Transportation Committee, that no one works harder for their constituents.
“In the coming year, there will be more than enough time to reflect and celebrate all she has done for our state. I join my fellow Texans in saying that Congress is losing a giant and a powerful force for good. Thank you, Congresswoman Johnson, for your service.”
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