Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warned on Tuesday that the growing number of Texas Republicans retiring from Congress could signal a larger issue with the party’s ability to win over voters in the Lone Star State.
“Republicans should be worried,” Fleischer told Fox News host Sandra Smith. “What happened in the 2018 election, if that’s any indication, is that Republicans have a problem particularly in college educated, suburban areas around Dallas, Houston, et cetera.”
Fleischer harkened back to his role in the 1990’s serving as the spokesman for the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee under former Rep. Bill Archer (R-TX). At the time, Archer served as the representative for Texas’ 7th Congressional district, preceding former President George H.W. Bush.
“[The district is] one of the most college educated districts in America,” Fleischer said. “After being Republican for some-30 years, it flipped to Democrat in 2018. This is worrisome.”
Fleischer’s remarks come only a day after the sixth House Republican in Texas revealed that he will not be seeking re-election after his term expires.
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years. They have given me opportunities to serve the nation in ways I could have never imagined, including as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) wrote on Twitter. “We are reminded, however, that ‘for everything there is a season,’ and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, this is my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
"It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years. They have given me opportunities to serve the nation in ways I could have never imagined, including as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (1/2)
— Mac Thornberry Press (@MacTXPress) September 30, 2019
Thornberry was first elected to the House in 1994 and is one of the longest-tenured Texans in Congress. He won his district in 2018 after receiving more than 80 percent of the vote and the seat is not considered to be at risk of flipping Democrat after he steps down.
However, out of the 25 House Republicans representing Texas districts when President Donald Trump was sworn into office in 2016, only 11 are poised to still be in Congress when the upcoming election cycle concludes.
In what the media has dubbed the “Texodus,” six House Republicans have announced their retirements since July. Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), revealed that he would not be seeking re-election to the 22nd Congressional District, turning that district into a top-tier battleground going into 2020. Reps. Mike Conaway, Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant, and Bill Flores made their own retirement announcements shortly after Olson.
Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has dismissed the slew of retirements as an opportunity for “new blood” to go through the party.
“There’s a difference between an election year and a midterm year,” Fleischer said. “This one’s got a presidential election cycle coming out, so you’ve got much heavier turnout in Texas of a Republican base than you did in 2018, but still, I think Texas is a warning sign to Republicans about suburbia, about college educated voters and women, and they need to keep their eye on it.”
“They’ve got to do better with those groups,” he continued. “Texas is still a red state — it has a little purple tinge to it [but] presidential level, I’m not worried about Texas at all, but these House retirements are tough on Republicans.”