Representative Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, says he will not seek re-election in 2018.
Smith, a San Antonio Republican, has held his seat since 1987 and there had been rumors knocking around Congress for a while that he might opt to retire after his current term, according to various reports.
There are several reasons Smith, who has made a name for himself in recent years with his ardent denials of climate change science and his efforts to force scientists to make their work and communications about their work more transparent, is ready to call it a day.
For one thing, like Representative Jeb Hensarling, fellow Texan and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Smith is term-limited and was going to be done with his chairmanship next year, meaning he was going to lose his flashiest gig in the House. (He had a chance of snagging a gig as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, but maybe the chance wasn't enough for him.)
On top of that, Smith's district, the 21st Congressional District, which draws from San Antonio, Austin and the Hill Country, may not be leaning as conservative as Smith might have hoped. During the presidential election, the district went to Donald Trump, but only with about 52 percent, with Hillary Clinton nabbing 42 percent of the vote.
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The split was clear enough to make Texas Democrats start circling Smith's district, with a number of local Dems,including Joseph Kopser, Elliot McFadden, Derrick Crowe and Chris Perri, throwing their hats into the ring. Kopser in particular is already distinguishing himself in the race. He raised more money than Smith in the third quarter, either a sign of Smith's weakness or an indication that his donors already knew he wasn't going to run.
So now Smith is on his way out, in the clear to work on legislation he wants to see passed, hold plenty of hearings and vote as he sees fit, according to an email he sent out that was obtained by the Texas Tribune.
Smith has been good at sticking to the GOP catechism in public while he's been known privately as a realistic-minded chairman who would listen and kick around ideas with both the Republican and Democratic members of his committee. (Hence why he has subpoenaed the hell out of scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and taken a trip to check out evidence of global warming in roughly the past year alone.) However, considering the sheer amount of ridiculous attacks he's made on climate science alone during his time at the head of the House Space, Science and Technology committee, it's clear that scientists and environmentalists will not be shedding any tears over his plan to leave Congress.
It will be interesting to see how Smith wraps up his time running the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and it could be really intriguing seeing how the race for his soon-to-be-former seat plays out next year.