U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a trailblazing Democrat in Texas who has served in Congress for nearly 30 years, announced Saturday that she will not be re-elected next year.
Johnson, 85, is a political fixture in her hometown of Dallas, where she early in her career became the city’s first black woman to serve in the city’s state Senate since Reconstruction.
Growing up in the segregated South, she was elected to Congress in 1992, becoming the first black woman to become chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
“There’s a good reason I have to stay: I’m a personal friend of the president, I’ve gained some respect and influence,” Johnson said during her announcement.
But she said she plans to keep a promise she made after winning the Democratic primary in March that her current term would be her last.
“From January (2023) I will step down. I am retiring,” Johnson said.
Though Democrats risk losing their House majority next year, Johnson could have continued to win her district under new congressional cards signed by Republican government leader Greg Abbott in October.
Her retirement is likely to attract a flood of hopeful successors. Cal Jillson, a political science professor at SMU, said the race could include a number of interested candidates already serving as elected officials.
“For example, Senator Royce West has looked at that chair a number of times in anticipation of Bernice Johnson’s retirement, but he may not decide to do it,” Jillson said. “There are also a number of Texas House members who are also interested in that chair. Yvonne Davis is one of them, Jasmine Crockett, Toni Rose, and people look at Mayor Eric Johnson and wonder if he might be interested in that chair . There are at least half a dozen others.”
At least three candidates have applied for the seat as of Saturday, according to The Dallas Morning News. One of those people is Zachariah Manning, who attended Johnson’s announcement on Saturday.
“I grew up in the district. I know the district, and I’m a businessman who is going to bring business to the district and not just talk,” Manning said.
Johnson said she would eventually support a successor to her safe Democratic seat, but not yet.
“My goal is to find a woman who is qualified,” Johnson said.
US Representative Colin Allred (D-Dallas) issued the following statement on Saturday.
“Congressman Johnson represents the best of North Texas. She is a pioneer who worked her way to become chief of psychiatric nurse in the Dallas VA, honorable in the state house and senate, and now congressional chair of the science, space, and technology committee.
“Whether you’re from Dallas or not, almost every Texan has benefited in one way or another from Congressman Johnson’s work. Her legacy is remarkable, and I can tell you firsthand from our joint work in the Transport Commission, that no one works harder for their constituents.
“In the coming year there will be plenty of time to reflect and celebrate what she has done for our state. I join my fellow Texans in saying that Congress is losing a giant and a mighty force for good. Thank you, Congressman Johnson, for your service.”
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