News

Rep. Gene Green Retires, Potentially Shaking Up Hispanic District

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, is retiring from Congress, a spokesman told The Texas Tribune on Monday afternoon

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, is retiring.

Long-serving Democratic Rep. Gene Green — a key reason Houston is now America’s largest Hispanic city without a Hispanic member of Congress — announced Monday that he won’t seek re-election, the sixth Texas congressman to give up his seat this year.

The 70-year-old said in a statement Monday that he’s “confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term” but added that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Green’s district snakes through mostly working-class areas of north and east Houston and will remain safely Democratic. That opens the door for Latinos in city politics or the Texas Legislature to jump into the party’s primary in March to replace him. Exactly who will do so isn’t immediately clear since the filing deadline is still about a month away.

First elected to Congress in 1992, Green speaks minimal Spanish and admits to answering questions about being “the Anglo in the Hispanic district” for decades. He’s never lost in the district, originally drawn to empower Hispanic voters and now nearly 80 percent Latino.

Green remained popular by winning over top Hispanic activists and obsessing about ways to keep constituents happy, such as organizing job fairs, returning home every weekend and personally returning phone calls.

Fully one-sixth of the 36-member Texas delegation in the U.S. House has now announced plans to leave office. Another Democrat, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, is giving up his El Paso seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. They join four Republicans.

Sam Johnson, an 87-year-old member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, announced in January he was retiring next year. Jeb Hensarling, 60, who chairs the influential House Financial Services Committee; Lamar Smith, 69, who heads the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; and 69-year-old Ted Poe all said recently they weren’t seeking re-election either.

The retirements aren’t thought to be part of a larger Texas political shakeup. Next year’s election now figures to be seismic for the state, though, since moderate Texas House Speaker Joe Straus shocked the Texas Capitol last month by announcing he too was stepping down.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Green “will be missed on both sides of the aisle.”

“Gene has played an important role in defending the Affordable Care Act, fighting every day for expanded access to affordable insurance coverage for all who need it,” Hoyer said in a statement. “He has also been a staunch ally of Israel in Congress, helping to ensure the strong, bipartisan support essential for the security of the Middle East’s only representative democracy.”

Houston is America’s fourth largest city, home to 2.3 million people, around 44 percent of whom are Latino. Nationally, Hispanics represent 17 percent of the population but only hold 7 percent of U.S. House seats. In Texas alone, they make up the majority of registered voters in nine congressional districts, but only four are represented by Hispanics.

“I think that it is time for me to be more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren,” Green said Monday, saying he would serve out the remainder of his term through next year. “I have had to miss so many of their activities and after 26 years in Congress it is time to devote more time to my most important job of being a husband, father and grandfather.”

_______

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, is retiring from Congress, a spokesman said Monday afternoon. 

Green was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992 after serving 20 years in the Texas Legislature. 

He currently holds a powerful position overseeing health care on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was once chairman of the House Ethics Committee.

Green is the sixth member of the Texas delegation to announce their departure from the House after the current term, joining Republicans Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Ted Poe of Houston and Sam Johnson of Richardson and Democrat Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

This past weekend marked the beginning of candidate filing in the March Texas primary. Within Texas delegation propriety, members are encouraged to announce retirements Before filing or early in the process, in order to give successors ample time to retire. As such, speculation ran wild that more GOP members might retire. Instead, the next retirement came from the Democratic side of the delegation. 

Green’s 27th Congressional District is all but certain to remain in Democratic hands. The district has a predominately Hispanic population, but Green’s adept retail political style helped him fend off a 2016 primary challenge from an old friend, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. 

Green served in the Texas House from 1972-1984 and in the Texas Senate from 1985-1992.

Share