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U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, A Dallas Republican, Says He Won't Run For Re-Election

Allison Shelley for The Texas Tribune
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R- Dallas, in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2017.

The powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Dallas Republican, announced his retirement from Congress on Tuesday afternoon. He is currently serving his eighth term in the House.

"Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the US Congress in 2018," Hensarling wrote in an email to supporters. "Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned."

While in a powerful perch with full GOP control of the legislative and executive branches, Hensarling faces a term limit preventing him from continuing his chairmanship at the end of his current term. Hensarling cited that as a reason for retiring, along with spending more time with is family.

Many in Texas saw the retirement coming, thanks to the term-limit issue. In September, Hensarling telegraphed to the Tribune that stepping down could be a possibility.

The Dallas Morning News first reported the news of Hensarling's announcement earlier Tuesday afternoon. 

Hensarling's political awakening took place as a student at Texas A&M University as a student of then-professor Phil Gramm, a future U.S. Senator. Hensarling would go on to work for the senator and then ran for and won his own U.S. House seat in 2002. In those 15 years, he proved to be one of the truest believers in free-market ideology. While some viewed him as rigid in policy, others saw a congressman who was consistent in his principles.

Hensarling spent the last year at the peak of his power – and not just because of his lofty position as a committee chairman.

As a young congressman, Hensarling befriended two other junior congressmen who would go on to the heights of federal power: Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The seat to replace Hensarling will likely be fought in the GOP primary. It is a heavily Republican district that stretches from Dallas deep into the Piney Woods of East Texas.

In the speculation leading up to Hensarling's retirement, a prominent name floated up as a potential successor: former U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican who relocated to Texas after leaving Congress. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed West to the Texas Sunset Commission in 2015.

When reached by telephone by the Tribune, the news caught West by surprise.

"Well that's a sad thing, but he's a great guy," he said.

On whether he might run for the seat, West said he would read more up on the news but downplayed the idea as a pressing ambition.

"I didn't move here to run for political office, but that's some interesting news you just told me."

Hensarling is the third Texan to retire from Congress this year. U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, retired early this year and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, is vacating his seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

In June, the House passed Hensarling's Financial CHOICE Act, a massive bill designed to repeal many Obama-era Wall Street regulations.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Abby Livingston joined the Tribune in 2014 as the publication's first Washington Bureau Chief. Previously, she covered political campaigns, House leadership and Congress for Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. A seventh-generation Texan, Abby graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. She grew up in Fort Worth and has appeared in an episode of "The Bold and The Beautiful." Abby pitched and produced political segments for CNN and worked as an editor for The Hotline, National Journal’s campaign tipsheet. Abby began her journalism career as a desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, working her way up to the political unit, where she researched stories for Nightly News, the Today Show and Meet the Press. In keeping with the Trib’s great history of hiring softball stars, Abby is a three-time MVP (the most in game history —Ed.) for The Bad News Babes, the women’s press softball team that takes on female members of Congress in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball breast cancer charity game.